Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline: Regional Energy Cooperation

Despite lingering uncertainties, Pakistan's recent approval for pipeline construction signifies a renewed dedication to realizing this long-held aspiration.

3 mins read
Iranian welders work on a pipeline to transfer natural gas from Iran to Pakistan, in Chabahar, near the Pakistani border, southeastern Iran, March 11, 2013.

The protracted saga of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline exemplifies the intricate interplay between ambitious energy diplomacy, unwavering perseverance, and the capricious nature of geopolitics. The project’s genesis can be traced back to the mid-20th century when the visionary seed was sown by Malik Aftab Ahmed Khan, a Pakistani civil engineer with remarkable foresight and determination.

Formal discussions between Iran and Pakistan commenced in 1995, culminating in a preliminary accord that envisioned a pipeline transporting natural gas from Iran’s South Pars field to Karachi, Pakistan. However, progress was stymied by a confluence of bureaucratic impediments and external pressures, most notably the imposition of American sanctions. The ensuing delays in constructing the Pakistani section of the pipeline fueled anxieties and cast doubt on the project’s long-term viability. Further complicating matters were the international sanctions levied against Iran, which threatened punitive measures for non-compliance.

This week, Pakistan’s Petroleum Minister, Musadik Malik, articulated the nation’s pursuit of a U.S. sanctions waiver for the gas pipeline originating from Iran. This initiative parallels waivers granted to India for trade with Russia and Iran, despite ongoing American sanctions. Concurrently, certain Pakistani political figures have leveled accusations against Washington, alleging interference in the country’s domestic political affairs—a contention which the U.S. government refutes.

Meanwhile, Iran has extended the deadline for its gas pipeline project with Pakistan by 180 days, extending to September 2024. Tehran has proactively offered to dispatch its legal and technical teams to Pakistan to foster collaborative endeavors toward a mutually beneficial resolution before the deadline lapses. As reported by local media, the technical teams aim to ensure project completion and avert potential arbitration, emphasizing Iran’s genuine commitment to facilitating Pakistan’s energy objectives and mitigating technical impediments.

In line with the energy challenges confronting numerous developing nations, Pakistan contends with formidable hurdles in meeting its escalating energy demands. Faced with burgeoning population growth and industrial expansion, the country’s energy requirements persistently outstrip its domestic production capacity, resulting in recurrent shortages and disruptions. Notably, natural gas assumes paramount importance in Pakistan’s energy portfolio, serving as a primary energy source for power generation, industrial operations, and domestic consumption. Nevertheless, the chronic shortfall in gas supply poses formidable obstacles to Pakistan’s economic advancement and societal welfare.

Pakistan’s demand for natural gas has exhibited a consistent upward trajectory attributable to factors such as population growth, urbanization, and industrial expansion. As elucidated by the Ministry of Energy (Petroleum Division), the nation’s total gas consumption surpasses 6 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd), surpassing indigenous gas production which stands at approximately 4 bcfd. This disjunction between supply and demand has precipitated an expanding energy deficit, thereby exacerbating Pakistan’s prevailing energy crisis.

In response to its energy exigencies, Pakistan has implemented a multifaceted strategy encompassing both domestic resource augmentation and the importation of energy commodities. The nation heavily relies on natural gas, constituting over 48% of its primary energy supply. Predominantly sourced from the country’s major gas fields located in Sui, Balochistan, and Qadirpur, Sindh, domestic gas production is further complemented by minor fields dispersed throughout the nation.

Moreover, in tandem with domestic production, Pakistan has commenced the importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to ameliorate the supply-demand imbalance. Integral to this endeavor are LNG terminals situated at Karachi and Port Qasim, facilitating the importation and regasification of LNG, thereby furnishing a flexible and dependable energy source. Furthermore, Pakistan has initiated explorations into alternative energy reservoirs such as coal, hydroelectricity, and renewable energy, to diversify its energy matrix and diminish dependence on imported fuels.

Despite encountering setbacks, Pakistan’s political leadership has reiterated its unwavering commitment to the completion of the pipeline project. Offers of financial assistance from allied nations underscore the project’s strategic significance and regional pertinence.

The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project has been beset by controversy, highlighting its complex geopolitical implications. Pressure exerted by the United States, alongside enticing alternative proposals, challenged Pakistan’s commitment to the project. However, unwavering resolve prevailed, bolstered by the belief that the pipeline aligns with Pakistan’s national interests. As the project timeline stretched, concerns regarding cost fluctuations and safety protocols emerged. Nevertheless, stakeholders remained steadfast, emphasizing the project’s potential for economic growth and regional stability.

Despite lingering uncertainties, Pakistan’s recent approval for pipeline construction signifies a renewed dedication to realizing this long-held aspiration. Past challenges notwithstanding, the vision of strengthened energy cooperation and economic prosperity continues to fuel efforts toward completion. Beyond a mere conduit for natural resources, the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline stands as a testament to the resilience of collaboration, the power of perseverance, and the promise of a brighter, interconnected future for regional nations within the intricate tapestry of energy diplomacy.

Considering Pakistan’s fragile economy and its pressing need for natural gas, it is recommended that the United States consider granting a waiver from sanctions, similar to those already extended to India. Alternatively, the US could explore options to compensate Pakistan for economic losses incurred due to sanctions. The Pakistani people have endured significant costs in maintaining their alliance with the US, and their ability to sustain further economic hardship is nearing its limit. The American administration must acknowledge these difficulties and recognize the vital importance of this project for the Pakistani population.

Muhammad Wasama Khalid

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He is an author of Global village space, Global defense insight, Global Affairs, and modern diplomacy. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Blog