The USA, through its Ambassador to Islamabad, Richard Olson, has once more gone public with reservations about the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Speaking to the press after paying his respects at the Mazar-i-Quaid on Monday, the Ambassador expressed reservations against the pipeline. It must be noted that the USA is against the pipeline not because it is a bad project, or even because it backs an alternative, but because it is in conflict with Iran. The sanctions it has imposed on Iran extend to containing its commercial interests, and whereas it has pressured India to withdraw from the project, it should realise that Pakistan has to suffer more shortages which are exacting a heavy cost in terms of jobs and exports lost. In fact, the lag that Pakistan has shown behind Iran in its work on the pipeline is an indication of US success in trying to stop Pakistan going ahead.

Work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline, which the USA is pushing as an alternative, will not start until 2017, becoming available some time later, assuming that the safety issues of Afghanistan are solved by then. Besides, the TAPI pipeline will not be an alternative, but an additionality. The USA is being impractical if it wishes Pakistan to give up the certainty of Iranian gas in exchange for the vague promise of Turkmen gas. It should be noted that the USA has not left India in such uncertainty, and has given it a civilian nuclear accord.

Pakistan should follow the example that the USA is providing, of following its own interests without regard to the effect on its allies. It should also note how casually the USA feels it can interfere in Pakistani affairs. Ambassador Olson saying that the USA looks for cooperation in energy and other sectors must be taken with a pinch of salt. The promise to help Pakistan in energy dates back to the early days of the war on terror, but has not been fulfilled. Without concrete measures, the USA cannot expect Pakistan to give up on its core interests, realistic energy planning being one, just to suit global American aims.