According to REALPOLITIK, Pakistan should consider any offer that can help shore up its fragile economy.
In this regard, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to restart the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline project, made to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, should be considered if it is beneficial to the country.
The project, which was completed in 2015 but is currently dormant, is intended to transport LNG from Karachi to power plants in Punjab. While some may argue that Mr. Putin’s offer is a political statement designed to ease his country’s Western-imposed isolation following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Pakistan must consider Mr Putin’s offer on its own merits.
Instead of geopolitical considerations, Pakistani policymakers should be asking two key questions about the Russian gas project: is it good for the country’s energy security, and is it feasible? The truth is that Pakistan has been involved in a number of regional pipeline projects, nearly all of which have failed.
For example, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-
As a result, while Mr. Putin’s offer sounds appealing, Pakistan should do its homework before proceeding, lest this scheme is put on hold for the foreseeable future. It is self-evident that Pakistan requires affordable and reliable energy supplies to power its industrial and economic activities, as well as for domestic use.
The question is, how and where can those supplies be secured while also increasing the output of renewable sources? There is no reason for Pakistan to back down if Russia can supply affordable gas and oil without fear of retaliation from the US-led Western bloc.
While Pakistan should avoid conflict with any bloc, energy security is a matter of national sovereignty, and foreign diktat is not welcome. India, surprisingly, is straddling both the Western and ‘other’ blocs; New Delhi is a member of the anti-China Quad, but it also partners with the SCO, of which Beijing is a founding member, and has been snapping up deeply discounted Russian oil despite Western reservations.
In such a scenario, Pakistan’s Western allies have no right to lecture it about strengthening energy ties with Russia.