Does US want to close Pakistan’s options?

Posted by Admin On Saturday, 1 March 2014 0 comments
The United States followed the same stance to block Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline which it once took to derail the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) project with a “strategic objective to keep Pakistan economically weak”.
Speaking at the 6th Pakistan Energy Forum 2014 here on Thursday, former petroleum secretary Dr Gulfraz, who had been part of negotiations on the two gas pipelines in 1997, said Afghan warlords had given assurances of security for the construction and operation of TAPI pipeline.
However, consortium leader Unicol pulled out of the project following directives of the US State Department, leaving Pakistan in a critical situation.
Pakistan had secured gas supply from Turkmenistan at a cheaper rate with the signing of a pricing framework at the time, but the project was delayed due to the change in US stance, he said.
Similarly, “we were close to sealing the IP pipeline deal, but the US offered civil nuclear technology to India (leading to Delhi’s withdrawal from the project) and Pakistan was left alone again,” he said, suggesting the government should not compromise on national security.
According to Gulfraz, Pakistan is facing the same situation in case of IP pipeline which it faced in 1997 while working on the TAPI project because of the change in US priorities. “After withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, I fear Washington will again be opposing TAPI pipeline following a shift in its policies.”
In recent years, the US has been actively promoting the TAPI project in an effort to drive Pakistan away from IP pipeline.
Qatar gas
Gulfraz disclosed that Qatar was also going to export gas to Pakistan through an offshore pipeline, but Iran wanted 50% share in it. Later, the project was shelved as Qatar felt that it would not be possible to lay the pipeline through Iranian waters.
He suggested that Pakistan should not strike a long-term LNG import deal with Qatar and work out economics of higher gas prices. Japan was importing LNG at $11-13 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) and was working on additional supplies. The price offered by Qatar was high, he said.
Talking to the media, he was of the view that Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia should agree on one point for their national interests. “We will continue facing problems because of opposite policies of Saudi Arabia and Iran.”
He believed that Nawaz Sharif should have visited Iran after becoming prime minister as Tehran could meet Pakistan’s energy needs.
Speaking on the occasion, State Minister for Petroleum Jam Kamal said Pakistan was facing problems in implementing the IP project due to risk of US sanctions. Pakistan would even find it difficult to purchase compressors and generators for the project.
According to Kamal, the government is seriously working on LNG import and a terminal services contract will be approved by the Economic Coordination Committee. It will also go for spot LNG purchases.
“We have implemented a new petroleum policy which promises better incentives and many foreign companies have expressed interest in investing in the oil and gas sector,” he said, adding foreign direct investment in the sector had improved.
Many companies were keen to explore shale gas in the country. Citing an example, he said the ENI chief, who arrived earlier this year, had shown interest in pumping money into shale gas exploration.
In an attempt to improve efficiency and performance, he said different options were being considered to privatise energy companies.


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