ISLAMABAD - The fate of Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline project would largely depend on outcome of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s crucial meeting with US President Barack Obama on October 23, sources said on Sunday.
Energy crisis in Pakistan and the multibillion dollars gas pipeline project would be among the key items on the agenda of the meeting, well-placed government sources told The Nation on Sunday. The government is working on various proposals to secure backing of the US President on the gas project.
“The Petroleum and Natural Resources Ministry has sent a summery to Law and Justice Division to solicit views about US threatening statements to impose economic sanctions in case Pakistan went ahead with the pipeline project,” sources said, adding that Foreign Office would devise strategy in the light of input from the Law and Justice Division.
However, sources privy to the development were of the view that US sanctions regime do not apply to IP gas pipeline project, as it does not entail direct transaction with any of the public sector banks of Iran. “Since the project would be handled through a non-governmental organisation of Iran, therefore, there was no risk of US sanctions attached to the gas pipeline project”, a senior government official said requesting not to be named.
Sources in the Foreign Office maintained that Prime Minister Sharif would take up the crucial issue of energy shortages with President Obama and would highlight the importance of IP gas pipeline project as the most feasible one in tackling this national crisis. They were upbeat about PM’s drawing positive support from the US president, as there were no alternate means available to Pakistan or the US to help its erstwhile strategic partner in war against terror in tackling this major problem.
The US president, some sources believed, could press Pakistani leader to pursue the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project instead of getting Iranian gas, but Pakistan would not compromise on any such proposal on the basis that TAPI was not a suitable proposition in the given circumstances.
Diplomatic sources say that leadership of the ruling PML-N would not budge from the IP gas project, as it would involve hefty financial implications, therefore Prime Minister Sharif and his team would do their utmost to convince President Obama that this project was in Pakistan’s best national interest.
Shortly after coming in to power, the newly elected prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, allayed fears regarding the abandonment of the project and said that his government was committed to the fulfilment of the project and targets the first flow of gas from the pipeline in December 2014. He has stated that his government is planning to commit to the TAPI gasline project as well to meet the ever growing energy need of the country.
To further pave the ground for materialisation of the IP gas project, PML-N government presented US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit to Pakistan a ‘non-paper’ over the project, conveying Islamabad’s standpoint that it was being undertaken to address the country’s acute energy requirements.
Pakistan government approved the IP pipeline project deal in January this year under which Iran agreed to provide $500 million dollars loan to finance the construction of the Pakistani section of the pipeline. Following that, the former President Asif Ali Zardari and his then Irani counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the construction work on Pakistani section of pipeline on March 11.
According to the plans, the pipeline having a diameter of 56 inches would carry 8.7 billion cubic metres (310 billion cubic feet) of gas per year as contracted and 40 billion cubic metres (1.4 trillion cubic feet) as maximum capacity. It is expected that Iranian gas would cost US$11 per million British thermal unit (MMBTU) as compared to $13 per MMBTU, which is expected to be price of gas delivered through the proposed Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline and $18 per MMBTU of imported LNG.