Monday, October 25, 2021

In A Blow To India, Pakistan Gets Russia To Invest In Country’s Major Gas Pipeline Project

In a major blow to India in its ambition to isolate Pakistan, Islamabad has reportedly agreed to hand over the management control of a gas pipeline project to Russia through a special purpose company.

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Previously known as North-South Gas Pipeline, the new agreement would pave the way for Pakistan to hold a 74 percent stake in the Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP) project, with Russia having 26 percent ownership, The Express Tribune reported.

Under the agreement, Russian companies will help supply the liquefied natural gas (LNG) via a 1,122-km high-pressure pipeline from Karachi’s Port Qasim to Kasur in Punjab province. 

According to the report, Russian President Vladimir Putin had also expressed keen interest in the project that would supply imported gas to Punjab as both sides considered the scheme an opportunity to boost their economic and strategic relationship.

The signing of the much-awaited project is expected to establish Russian footprints in Pakistan after decades. Earlier, Russia had helped Pakistan in setting up Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) and Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), the report added.

The announcement of the landmark deal was made after the Russia-Pakistan technical committee held its first meeting from November 16-18, 2020 in Islamabad to jointly work and develop the crucial gas pipeline project. The meeting was attended by officials from the energy ministries of the two countries.

The agreement to facilitate economic cooperation between the two countries follows a 2015 agreement, under which it was decided to build a more than 1,000-km long pipeline from Karachi to Kasur.

The project was significant for Pakistan since the country faces an energy crisis, and its deteriorating gas shortage is expected to be mitigated with the signing of the new agreement.

The two countries are swiftly moving forward in improving bilateral relations by signing a string of critical agreements in the economic and defense sectors this year.

The government of Pakistan released a statement saying, “The project will begin a new era of economic cooperation between Pakistan and the Russian Federation.”

The ties between the two countries are moving past the bitter Cold War rivalry when Pakistan was positioned opposite the Soviet Union and was aligned with the West. The Islamic nation has seen its partnership deteriorating with the US which has pushed the country towards Russia and China.

Pak-Russia Technical Committee meeting held in Islamabad

Frequent conflicts with the Gulf nations, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, this year have also forced the country to rethink its geopolitical strategy, and the country is pushing for self-reliance in every sector, driven by constant blackmail from its old allies. And Russia is being looked upon as a dependable partner for its technological prowess and formidable defense industry.

The changing power dynamics among the Gulf nations and their evolving relationships with the US-led bloc has forced Pakistan to look elsewhere. The enormous Chinese support to its defense and economic sectors may not be enough to support the growing challenges. Experts in Pakistan are endorsing radical reforms in the country’s foreign policies and a shift towards economic independence.

Pakistan’s relations have, as a result, been growing tremendously, especially after India aligned itself militarily with the US, ignoring its old friend Russia’s concerns. Consequently, the only nuclear Islamic country has found comfort in the Russia-China orbit, which has committed to help the beleaguered country get out of the crisis.

On November 5, the Russian Federation Special Forces’ contingent arrived in Pakistan for a two-week joint exercise, aimed at sharing both armies’ experiences in the counter-terrorism domain. The exercise was seen as another step in growing military-to-military cooperation between the two countries.

The development came amid worsening relations between Islamabad and Washington, after the halt of all US military exchange programs with Pakistan, and the Russians are said to have come to fill the void. The two countries are increasingly participating in bilateral war-games, involving troops and military equipment from multiple countries.

The formation of the new US-led Quad countries, including India, Japan, and Australia has compelled China and Russia to rethink their own strategies and strengthen their partnerships with their own allies, the most important of which is Pakistan.

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