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.

map

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
    -4

    Comment number 185.

    Like every country Pakistan and Iran both have rights to sign not only gas pipeline but any kind of deals. If countries are allies of US, UK they can do any deals if not they will face threats like sanctions. It's 2013, US need to realise that both Pak and Iran are not like Iraq or Afganiatan.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 184.

    This is just ridiculous. This spells out a'serious threat for world peace' etc etc, blah blah. So, only 'a few' should have all of the nuclear know-how and technology, because they have proven so restrained over the years. Seriously, America is the only country to actually drop a nuclear bomb on civilians. Iran and Pakistan have every right to do this agreement. Stop your blind prejudice.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 183.

    India gets the following
    Iranian waiver,
    nuclear power helped by USA and co
    India gets western jobs, weapons, trade, all kinds of help including media LOVING attention despite being an agressor in muslim kashmir, christian persecuter, ingrained caste/inequal system,hindu extremist (BJP is in the top 2 parties in India voted in by indians),

    and pakistan gets sanctions for its needs

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 182.

    Re #bombastic infantile comment against any nation who opposed them."




    Cf. North Korean Gulag regimes' comments re striking US/S. Korea with nuclear weapons.

    Comrades, within minutes after your single launch you'd be dead meat.

    All of you.

    P.S. Do you recall bombastic anti-US comments by Imperial Japan in early 1940s? By 1945 Japan was in ruins.

    [something worth remembering]

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 181.

    @143 ...The Taliban & Bin Laden were actually created, trained and financed by the US...

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 180.

    US should stop bullying the world.Its time Pakistan should see the need of the people first rather than taking dictation from US.The energy crises in Pak has shaken their economy.Any country would go for it.Beside this project has been procrastinated for more than a decade.Better late than never.

    Live and let live !

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 179.

    168.i8myhamster
    What did you expect people to read and rationalise? It's much easier to just throw **** at the US as it doesn't require you to know anything or think for yourself.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 178.

    @168.i8myhamster

    stupid indeed. so UN would've proceeded without US bullying? US will sit back if any nation break sanction deals?

    US uses the UN for its own ends, including the Iraq war. The internet, freedom of information access, declassification of records, & exposing blatant US lies means we're less gullible.

    US lies & foreign adventures are great for arms & oil industries, but not for me.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 177.

    Europeans envious?!?
    Of what? A country that breaks international law and executes children and the mentally ill. A country which is supposed to be wealthy but its citizens have to go to food banks to get fed? A country where you die if you can't afford healthcare? OBSCENE!!
    No thanks, give me Europe with all its faults any day. At least we're civilised.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 176.

    My post No. 9 .........Yet another example of USA .....This 'Bully Boy' approach...........Better, some skilled diplomatic response.

    This was a +9 until the USA got out of bed, now it is -2. No problem for me but it does show how totally brainwashed these Flag Saluting, self-centred, unworldly folks truly are. Why doesn't the USA pull up its drawbridge and leave the rest of the World alone!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 175.

    Very worried when many people of pakistani origin are out to do harm to the U.K. and its citizen-some even born here.
    Remember also that the leader of the afghani people said -if it comes to war,he'll back pakistan over the usa.
    I would be very afraid of a country that has nuclear capability becoming closer to one that wants it badly.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 174.

    Gas pipeline across Afghanistan? Good luck building it. You're going to need it.

    Easy target is an understatement.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 173.

    Queue the anti-American comments by the British appeasement wing. The British short-stick complex gets out of hand sometimes. You people need to understand, while America has made some mistakes certainly it does not justify cheering the partnership of a nuclear power with another nation seeking nuclear power despite UN resolutions. That pipeline will bring them more trouble than it solves.

  • Comment number 172.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 171.

    159.duvinrouge

    US imperialism in decline.
    All that's needed now is for the Saudis to sell oil in currencies other than dollars.
    ++++


    You're at least 5 years behind the curve. With the latest discoveries of huge oil/gas fields in Louisiana, Dakotas and Utah, US is not only fully independent , but in a a couple of years may, if laws are changed, become a major exporter of oil&gas. Tough!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 170.

    Iran will survive ,USA will not win this time, no regime change possible, UK can support USA and will loose as well, Pakistan should not be allowed to rule Afghanistan by its PROXY (TALIBAN)
    SAM

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 169.

    America just cry when someone else gets power

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 168.

    This debate is stupid... half the comments with positive results fail to realise that it is not the US who have imposed the sanction, it is the UN.
    Its just the US who are stating the fact. This report fails to mention that though for some reason...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 167.

    #78
    Excellent move by Pakistan and Iran.
    +++


    If one wants to have their pipeline blowned-up/sabotaged every couple of months.

    That's why, btw. GHW Bush oppposed runnng a major pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey either through Russia or Iran.

    [today Baku-Ceyhan pipeline runs through Georgia]

    And Nabucco pipeline will also run through Turkey; not Putin's Russia.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 166.

    UK and US need to stop all aid to Pakistan then they will not be able to buy from Iran.

 

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