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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  • Comment number 305.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 304.

    Pro American / Anti Pakistani comments are coming through thick and fast...can tell the American people have awoken.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 303.

    298.Jack Napier
    I'm not a fan of either the Iranian or Pakistani regimes , but , to be fair , where Pakistan gets its energy is nobodiy's business but theirs"

    It is a case of the International community sticking together against a rogue state that has threatened to "wipe Israel off the face of the earth".

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 302.

    I am generally sceptic of the middle east and Islamic run governments, however from an economic perspective, this major infrastructure move will go on to massively improve both of these countries' economies, and subsequently improve living standards of their people. I fear, however, that Iran may have different intentions for the raised capital: Nuclear Programme.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 301.

    Great partners!
    GAS for NUKE!
    The will really cement democratic traditions!

  • Comment number 300.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 299.

    64.Peter Barry
    There appears to be an increasing number of sovereign states prepared to ignore the rantings of the US.
    "Sovereignty" means: The authority of a state to govern itself.
    Pity the UK and other lapdogs of the US and Israel don't take note"

    You will not be saying that once one of these "sovereign States" develops a nuclear bomb and actually carries out its threats to use it.

  • rate this
    +37

    Comment number 298.

    I'm not a fan of either the Iranian or Pakistani regimes , but , to be fair , where Pakistan gets its energy is nobodiy's business but theirs.

    Its bully boy tactics like this from the US, which will deny energy to millions of innocent Pakistanis that helps make the US so unpopular incertain parts of the world.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 297.

    Well done Pakistan for standing up to the bully boy America. If only we had some politicians with a pair.All we have are but-kissers even if it is to the detriment of servicemen and economy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 296.

    281.Trollicus
    5 Minutes ago
    258.
    SillyEnglandDotCom

    "I agree, the US should never have entered WWI WWII ..."
    ====
    I assume you are German, or Japanese perhaps? If the US had not entered WW2 the UK and much of Europe would probably now be part of a Nazi empire headquartered in Berlin. Rather worse I think than the developing Socialist empire based in Brussels. Or are you a sick joker?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 295.

    @ 288.bob woolmer , Its obviously not that much of a secret if you know about it, and where is your evidence?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 294.

    Time to stop all aid to Pakistan and let them get on by themselves. They need the West more than the West needs them.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 293.

    Pakistan is a pariah state - who said so, Imran Khan! Not only are they challenging a UN mandate they are actively engaging with the Taliban in supposed peace talks - not to prevent them attacking the rest of the world, just Pakistan. Note also the biased selection of blogs chosen under Editor's Picks - perhaps the BBC should uproot and move en bloc to Pakistan (if only!).

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 292.

    276.Fred Bloggs

    "...US is quite within its rights as another sovereign nation to impose whatever trade sanctions on any country it likes for whatever reason..."

    ===

    But it always goes further, by imposing them on third parties that do not, and then threatening fourth parties with them too, if they do not do likewise to the second and third. So it goes on.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 291.

    Pakistan are like Iran but with better PR.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 290.

    282. vin
    I don't really know to be honest with you. I just figure that constant threats, sanctions and conflict have never got us anywhere before. I'm not suggesting that were all going to become best friends, just that we shouldn't make quite so many enemies by thinking that we hold more power than we do and by ordering everyone else around when we have no right to do so.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 289.

    275 - Chris. Of course your comment is true. But, for the purposes of balance which is crucial for debate, there are also a well recorded & significant number of religous zealots within the USA. The Devil & his representitives on Earth increasingly own & live within the church/mosque regardless of Christian or Muslim belief systems.

  • rate this
    -14

    Comment number 288.

    America has a right to be concerned. The 'gas' pipeline is actually a secret plot by the Iranians to transfer nuclear materials to and from Pakistan via the pipelines and therefore deserves to be (heavily) sanctioned.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 287.

    Turkey, a Nato ally of the west also buys 90% of its gas from Iran. Why only single out pakistan who is deperately in need of energy. Turkey's gives a damn to sanctions and US has turned a blind eye. The alternative to Pakistan is Turkemanistan-Afgh-paki- India Pipe line which depends on a stabale Afgh for its viability - a distant though . This leave Pak with no option but to look towards Iran

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 286.

    Thing is that both Iran and Pakistan harbour and promote terrorist groups and ideology. How long before an anti-Shia or Balochistan liberation group blows up the pipeline? Until these two countries become responsible and mature enough vis-a-vis their neighbourhood and the world, they will always be tainted with blood on their hands.

 

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