Abandon Iran pipeline accord: US




January 14, 2010, Afzal Bajwa



ISLAMABAD – The US has once again put Pakistan in a fix asking to abandon the Iranian gas pipeline project to qualify for extensive American energy assistance especially for importing LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and electricity.

Well-placed sources told TheNation on Wednesday that US Special envoy Richard Holbrooke made this conditional offer to Petroleum Minister Syed Naveed Qamar during a meeting that also discussed bilateral energy cooperation and investment opportunities in the country.

According to sources, in case
Pakistan foregoes the source of gas import from Iran through a long-planned gas pipeline, the US would help import electricity from Tajikistan through Afghanistan’s Wakhan corridor. The sources pointed out that this has been a longstanding offer of the US to help construct high voltage power transmission lines from Tajikistan to Pakistan but only if Pakistan abandons the Iranian project. Indians have already slipped out the initially planned Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline under the American influence ever since the Indo-US nuclear deal rendering it as Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Now the US is mounting all its pressure on Pakistan either by offering assistance for alternate energy sources or by arm-twisting over the terrorism issue to give up on Iranian gas pipeline.
Meanwhile, an official handout issued after Holbrook’s meeting with Naveed Qamar stated that views were shared on matters of bilateral cooperation and mutual interest with particular focus on the ongoing cooperation in the field of energy. Ways and means to further enhance the existing relations and to support projects intending to reduce the energy shortfall in the country also came under discussion, it added.

The Minister also gave an overview of his efforts for mitigating fuel demand supply gap in the country. According to the minister, in the short and medium term demand and supply gas would be reduced through LNG imports. Qamar said that the
US assistance in LNG projects is highly appreciable. Keen interest of Overseas Private Investment Cooperation (OPIC) in supporting LNG import projects in Pakistan could further go beyond the LNG projects. Many operators with US equity were showing increasing interest especially for the short medium term, he added. Holbrooke apprised the Minister of his government’s keen interest in addressing the country’s need by extending support in areas of oil, gas and water. Holbrooke also underscored the need to enhance understanding and confidence so as to maximize trust.