LAHORE: Iran is “an unreliable partner” and Pakistan should not engage in a gas pipeline deal with the country, US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said on Friday.
Making a deal with Iran would be a bad idea and Pakistan should work with Turkmenistan instead, the ambassador said while addressing students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) Ambassador’s Forum. He added that a strong Pakistan was in the interests of the US.
This is not the first time the US has urged Pakistan not to sign power agreements with Iran. In September, the US went so far as to table the possibility of sanctions if Pakistan struck significant energy deals with Iran.
US assistance to Pakistan includes civilian and military aid, and civilian assistance has not been discontinued, even in the worst of times, Munter said. Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the forum, Munter said the memogate scandal was Pakistan’s internal issue and the US would help in the investigation – if Pakistan wants.
It had earlier been reported that Turkmenistan had agreed with Pakistan on the price of gas it plans to send via an ambitious pipeline from its prospective natural gas fields through Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan, which sits on the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves, wants to build the trans-Afghan pipeline as part of its plans to diversify sales from its Soviet-era master Russia to energy-hungry markets in Asia and Europe. It aims to supply natural gas from its South Iolotan field, the world’s second-largest, to Pakistan and India. The idea of the pipeline, TAPI, was first raised in the mid-1990s, but construction has yet to begin.
Earlier this month, Pakistan and Turkmenistan initiated the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement, which took the $7.6 billion proposed TAPI project a step closer towards materialisation.
The proposed 1,700-kilometre pipeline could carry one trillion cubic metres of Turkmen gas over a 30-year period, which would work out at 33 billion cubic metres a year.
Pakistan faces chronic power shortages, and must urgently come up with solutions for its long-term gas requirements. The last major discoveries of gas fields were in the 1990s, though they were not enough to replace the depletion of much larger gas fields discovered in the 1950s.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2011.