US aversion to gas pipeline

Washington's dictate disallowing gas transmission initiative between Pak-Iran to go ahead in contravention of waivers

March 29, 2024

Pakistan’s energy acquisition policy seems to be mired in some deep confusion. The defunct Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project is a case in point. The new dictate from Washington that it will not allow the bilateral gas transmission initiative to go ahead between Islamabad and Tehran is in contravention of many of the stated waivers that other countries are availing with reference to international sanctions. India is a prime example that has high-profile trade and investment relations with Russia, and is a recipient of subsidised oil from the Kremlin. But when it comes to Pakistan, the prism of geo-economic gets jaundiced, and the US starts treating both countries with abject bias and irrationality.

At the same time, Pakistan lacks a formal policy line of action and is seen swinging between the pendulum. Its decision last month to start building an 80km segment of the pipeline linking Gwadar to the Iranian border was on the spot. In doing so, it not only reconnected the missing dots in energy pursuit but also made a lawful stride in warding off $18 billion penalties from Tehran. The somersault now to go and ask for the US largesse in the form of a waiver was not required, which ultimately has drawn retribution from a State Department official. This is confusion at its best and, at times, hints at an apologetic approach. The US meddling in the region has come with a heavy price tag for Pakistan. America’s desire to see Pakistan distance itself from the multi-billion dollar CPEC was manifested in its dictation from the IMF platform, and likewise it wants to scuttle the pipeline project with Iran. This will be an antithesis of regionalism and sovereignty, and Pakistan must stand up to defend itself from such maneuverings.

The need is to foment a viable energy policy and differentiate it from litigations of sanctions drawn on the premise of otherness. In no way is the IP gas pipeline a source of abetting terrorism or a threat to US interests in the region. Obstructing it is nothing but partisanship.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2024.

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