Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline defies US

 

The two leaders unveiled a plaque at the site, as the BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports

President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have inaugurated a controversial gas pipeline linking the two neighbours.

The US has warned that the project could incur sanctions connected with Iran's nuclear programme.

The long-delayed pipeline is seen in Pakistan as a way of alleviating the country's chronic energy shortages.

The work on the Iranian side is almost complete. Construction in Pakistan will begin on Monday.

Analysis

The pipeline decision is bound to provide an additional irritant in relations between Washington and Islamabad. The US has consistently warned that the pipeline - if built - could potentially lead to US sanctions against Pakistan as part of Washington's efforts to contain Iran's nuclear programme.

Washington insiders, though, suggest that this would be more likely to become an issue once the gas flow was ready to be switched on. That could still be some years away. Indeed, one of Washington's biggest criticisms of the pipeline is that it does nothing to address Pakistan's immediate energy needs.

The US sees a good measure of domestic Pakistan politics in all of this - elections are looming - and it may be for a future government in Islamabad to face the moment of truth: either to risk US sanctions by switching the gas on or to risk domestic criticism by being seen to cave in to US pressure.

Live television footage showed the two presidents shaking hands with dignitaries as the ceremony got under way at the border.

"There are people who are against the progress of Iran, Pakistan and other countries. They have found an excuse - called the nuclear issue - to exert pressure on Iran and to prevent its progress," President Ahmadinejad said.

"I want to tell them the gas pipeline has nothing to do with nuclear energy; you can't make an atomic bomb with natural gas."

President Zardari said the project was very important for Pakistan and was not "directed against any other country".

A total of 780km (485 miles) of pipeline is due to be built in the country over the next two years.

Dubbed the "peace pipeline", talks on the project began in 1994. The pipeline was initially intended to carry gas on to India, but Delhi withdrew from negotiations in 2009, just a year after it signed a nuclear deal with the US.

The US says the project would enable Iran to sell more of its gas, undermining efforts to step up pressure over Tehran's nuclear activities.

"If this deal is finalised for a proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under our Iran Sanctions Act. We've made that absolutely clear to our Pakistani counterparts," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters last week.

Washington - a major donor to Pakistan - has also argued that there are other ways to ease Pakistan's energy crisis. One option favoured by the US is a plan to import gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, which has been under discussion for years.

But power shortages have become a major and pressing issue in Pakistan, and the government there insists it will not bow to pressure.

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A nationwide power cut last month was blamed on a technical fault in a plant in south-western Balochistan province, but it highlighted the energy challenges the country faces.

Blackouts are common in Pakistan because of chronic power shortages, and many areas are without electricity for several hours a day,

Last year, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the pipeline was "in Pakistan's national interest" and would be completed "irrespective of any extraneous considerations".

BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge notes that some analysts say President Zardari feels it is an opportune time to be assertive with the US, with elections on the horizon in Pakistan.

But our correspondent says Pakistan acknowledges that the pipeline route through the troubled province of Balochistan presents significant security challenges.

Separatist rebels fighting for autonomy and an increased share of mineral resources have frequently targeted pipelines in the gas-rich province.

 

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  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 85.

    Random16@ 37 said:
    "Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Iran is a rogue state and a danger to World Order. Co-operation between the two should be discouraged for obvious reasons. And all we get is anti-american rhetoric on the comments here. Are people so blind or stupid that they can't see the folly of their own prejudice?"

    ========

    But how different is that to the US/Israel situation?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 84.

    I guess the USA is entitled to a view given the level of aid accepted by Pakistan.
    Likewise they will be the UK's biggest aid recipient by 2015 (£450 million pa).
    As corruption and anti-western feeling is endemic in the country, perhaps both the UK & US could just stop all aid and leave them to it?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 83.

    Glad to see Pakistan defying the US - what does this have to do with the US anyway? Theres alot of anti - ıslamic commentary on here. I suggest that these people should stop hiding behind their screens and perhaps travel a bit.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 82.

    The UK GIVES £200 million in aid to Pakistan per year, why not more so they can upgrade their nuclear arsenal while not caring for their people properly; why are we funding them?
    Pity the aid does not get through to the starving and sick where it is needed - Whitehall knows best what is in our interest? another policy thought up at the last dinner party they had in Chelsea with the dopey left.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 81.

    NPT was a way for nations to develop nuclear power for peaceful use without alarming others who'd feel threatened if they acquired nuclear weapons.As a matter of a nation's life and death this is no small matter.By ignoring NPT and seeming to attempt to acquire these weapons Iran sets itself up to become a target for a pre-emptive nuclear strike.No one's idea of fairness or unfairness matters here

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 80.

    This is a good thing for Pakistan, they need to be more independent, rather than rely on the US for resources, they should not be encouraged to hold the same grudge the US has against Iran.

    The US is just jealous because they don't want them to form a close friendship with each other and become independent, the US just wants everyone in the west to depend on them, this needs to stop.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 79.

    Good for you Pakistan...

  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 78.

    Excellent move by Pakistan and Iran. More cooperation i.e. trade and projects are required between the various countries of the region. American paranoia is unjustified. The pipeline is meant to address the energy crisis. Pakistan has the right to resolve the energy crisis on its own terms. Why the double standards? India and the rest get a waiver and Pakistan threats of sanctions?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 77.

    The US are determined to prevent sovereign nations from forming alliances, whether they be economic or military... UNLESS those alliances are with THEM! Syria isn't being torn apart by a popular uprising. It's been targeted by the West/Israel and their Arab proxies, to destroy an ally of Iran. The road to Tehran goes through Damascus. Remember Bush named Syria in his axis of evil speech...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 76.

    @68.FrankSydney

    I mentioned to Muslim friends unhappy about US that its all about pragmatism & both sides having problems to resolve.

    Boycotting US & partner products means:

    1. All vehicle fuel
    2. breakfast cereals
    3. household items & appliances (P&G, honeywell etc.)
    4. soft drinks
    5. fruits (del monte, monsanto)
    6. cars (parts & JVs)
    7. computers (Apple, microsoft etc)
    8. banking & insurance

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 75.

    Perhaps the only reason why US is irritated is that Pakistan for the first time took a decision that might be actually good for the country. I find it really amazing that out of all that corruption & the politicians being lapdogs of the US, they took a decision that the US finds will make this poor country actually a bit independent of the US....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 74.

    I like this defiance towards Saudi Arabia, Qatar & US - all guilty of much desruption in ME countries, I expect western sabotage in regards to the pipeline. Project will deliver Iranian energy to Pakistan – a nation dealing with crippling energy shortage. Pipeline is significance symbol of warm relations between Iran & Pakistan. I can easily imagine the pipeline being extended into China...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 73.

    So.. what would they rather we opt for Nuclear Energy to meet our shortfall?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 72.

    Something does smell a little fishy when the US discourages a deal between Pakistan (a declared ally of the west) and Iran.

    Surely co-operation between them would make resolving international differences easier - everyone wins, unless there's some other motive lurking beneath...

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 71.

    It's relatively easy to show your discomfort about this linkage sitting miles away, but no one knows the pain which we people have to face at nearly 46 degree heat and power-outs for 16-20 hours a day. We understand your concerns too...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 70.

    Re 61 Paul ,let's give you a history lesson 90% of the most active and murderous terrorist groups like that Haqqani network and ttp were created and funded by the CIA , they did not exist till American foreign policy and money didn't dictate they did , easy to blame Pakistan for its failings but the underlying problem that innocent Pakistanis are being killed in their 1000s by is a Us Interference

  • rate this
    -22

    Comment number 69.

    US is using every means short of war to prevent Iran from acquiring the capability to produce nuclear weapons.Pesident Obama correctly says Iran with nukes is unacceptable for many reasons including US security.Pakistan is intentionally or unintentionally thwarting US efforts.If all else fails the US must and will destroy Iran's capability and maybe much more with it.Pakistan makes a big mistake

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 68.

    We should put our own sanctions on the US, by boycotting as many US companies as possible! Don't give ANY money to the tax-dodging US corporations who make rubbish burgers and questionable coffee!

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 67.

    @53.sanbag

    only ignorant racist americans will embarass themselves publicly with the "axis of evil" nonsense.

    US used that on Iraq. US vilified Vietnam before the truth was out.

    US was all self-righteous against "evil" Burma: this will stop now that trade deals are in place.

    US never criticised "evil" freinds in central & south America, or Arabia, or Turkey etc.

    Pathetic ignorant americanism.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 66.

    Outrageous that a nation can ignore the orders of the US to do what's in their own national interest

 

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