Gas from Iran

President ZardariIran has not just built its own portion of the gas pipeline from the gas fields to the Pakistani border, but it has also offered to build the Pakistani portion, from the Pakistani border, to the main distribution point, from where it can be piped across the country.

This offer was made by visiting Iranian Vice-President on international affairs Ali Saeedlou in his meetings with the President and PM’s Finance Adviser Hafeez Sheikh, and should be accepted by Pakistan immediately. The US has persuaded India to withdraw from the project, but currently there are no sanctions on Iran for exporting gas. As such, Pakistan is free to make a decision on its own.

Pakistan, although it has a government sensitive to US interests, also is in great need of Iranian gas to help overcome its energy shortages, and has resisted all pressure so far, and has assured Iran that it will continue with its plans to make the pipeline operational. In this context, the latest American statement has come directly from the State Department, evidence of US diplomatic interest in Pakistan’s final decision.

With this in the background, President Zardari’s announcing of increased visa facilities for Iranian businessmen shows that Pakistan is serious about the goal of increasing Pak-Iranian trade to $5 billion, from the current $1.5 billion. Therefore, the relationship is not just about gas, but also about greater trade between the two neighbouring, friendly countries, adding economic ties to the already existing cultural, religious and fraternal ones.

This may disturb the US, but Pakistan is looking to its wider national interests as a matter of survival.This becomes particularly important at this point, when there is to be a setting of rules of engagement with the USA. Pakistan must make it a condition that its dealings with Iran, as well as with China, should not be made a source of friction by the US. As with the gasline project with Iran, there are several projects with China, both civilian and military. While Iran is an irritant to the US and China is similarly a concern, the US itself is the best example, given the giant trade volume is has with China. – Nation