Among the many crises that Pakistan is facing today, undoubtedly the shortage of energy is the most serious one. It has not only stunted the economic growth but also has the potential of disturbing the peace and order in the country, as reflected by the increasingly violent public protests against long power outages.
To address the problem, Pakistan as well as India, which is also facing the same kind of crisis, entered into preliminary negotiation on two projects named the India-Pakistan-Iran pipeline (IPI) and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) in the mid-90s. The negotiations were protracted on the price mechanism, transit fees and security of the pipeline through Afghanistan to ensure uninterrupted supply. India opted out of the project in 2007 over security concerns retaining the option to re-join it, and instead signed a long-term deal with Myanmar. Pakistan, having no other option, stuck to the Iranian deal and finally the agreement was signed in Istanbul on March 16 this year.
Iran has 15.7 per cent of the world’s natural gas reserves, second only to Russia. It is anticipated that Iran’s total gas export to China and Europe will reach $18 billion in the next decade. The IPI pipeline, whose total cost is estimated at $7.4 billion, would run about 1115km in Iran, 705km in Pakistan and 850km in India and may take four to five years for completion. The TAPI pipeline starts from Dolatabad, Turkmenistan, passes through Harat and Kandhar in Afghanistan, Multan in Pakistan and ends at Fazilka at the Pakistan-India border. The project has the support of the US.
The Term Paper on Pakistan India Relation
... trade possibilities (like Afghanistan-Pakistan-India and Iran-Pakistan-India), there is not any bilateral compulsion on Pakistan and India to do trade ... dimension of trade between Pakistan and India. For instance, the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) Gas Pipeline costing $ 7.5 billion ... US is pushing Pakistan to meet its energy needs through installing more hydel projects and upgrading the ...
While it was anticipated that the US may throw a spanner in the works to punish Iran, the possibility was discounted in view of the new state of relationship and the US’ commitment to help Pakistan in energy sector. These expectations, however, have not met. The US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake has cautioned Pakistan saying, “We do not think it is the right time for doing this kind of transaction with Iran.” He has “advised” Pakistan to seek another alternative. The US attitude has put to naught all its claims of supporting Pakistan and having a long-term relationship on the basis of “mutual interest and mutual trust”.
The US indeed is fully aware of the crisis of energy faced by Pakistan. It was in this context that during the recently held strategic dialogue, Pakistan had put energy as one of its critical concern. The request for nuclear civil technology was also based on this consideration. The US did not commit itself to Pakistan’s request but announced its offer to provide $125 million for energy development and repair and upgrade of three thermal power units in Guddu, Jamshoro and Muzzafargarh.
The IPI pipeline project being critical to our energy needs and future economic development must be pursued and the government must ignore any “advice” contrary to that. The US administration should also be told that the “trust deficit” between the US and Pakistan has comeback to the fore and all the assurances given to Pakistan based on “mutual trust and mutual interest” have lost whatever credibility they might have. The acceptance of the US’ advice would have serious consequences for our relations with Iran not to speak of our development plans. Any submission to the US pressure would forfeit the government of the little public support and confidence it presently enjoys.