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The great game

Western World’s opposition to Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline is seen as a reiteration of its economic interests and geopolitical hegemonic designs in the region

By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq

In the face of threats of sanctions from the United States, President Asif Ali Zardari and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on March 11, 2013 launched the groundbreaking work on the 781-kilometre-long pipeline on the Pakistani side of the border. The Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline Project, initialed in 1995, has been facing perpetual opposition from the United States and its allies. Heads of both the countries, in their speeches at the occasion, reaffirmed their commitment to go ahead with the project “despite threats from the world powers”.

President Zardari said that the project would promote peace, security and progress in the region besides improving economic, political and security ties between the two neighbouring states. Stressing that the project was not against any country, President Zardari said such steps forging better understanding would also help fight terrorism and extremism.

President Ahmadinejad, while pointing towards foreign states and criticising what he called “their unjustified opposition to the project under the excuse of Iran’s nuclear issue”, said: “They are against Iran and Pakistan’s progress and have used the nuclear issue as an excuse”. He added, “We never expected [Western] companies to make an investment in this pipeline which guarantees progress, prosperity and peace in the region; if they don’t want to join this project for any given reason, they are not entitled to rock the boat and disturb the project”.

Pakistan on the completion of IP is to receive 21.5 million cubic meters of natural gas on daily basis. Faced with extraordinary energy crisis, Pakistan needs natural gas badly — its shortage has caused miseries to millions of Pakistanis and closure of industries. Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometres of the pipeline on its side. The Tehran-based Tadbir energy development group has undertaken all the engineering procurement and construction work for the first segment of the project. It will also carry out the second segment of the project and also extend the financing of $500 million to Pakistan. Iran and Pakistani are optimistic to complete the project by December 2014.

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