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Regional Focus
Politics of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline
Updated:Mar 7, 2012
 
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The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was quite explicit in her warning before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations last week that the implementation of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project would trigger the US sanctions under the Iran Sanctions Act. This Act imposes certain specified sanctions against any foreign (non-US) company, which invests more than $20 million in the oil and gas sector in Iran. This warning must be seen in the context of the current animosity between Iran and the US, and Washington’s growing pressure on Tehran because of its nuclear programme.

The root causes of the current tensions between the US and Iran can be traced to a number of factors.
First and foremost, Washington views Iran as a major obstacle, indeed a threat, to the realisation of its strategic objectives in the Middle East, especially the Persian Gulf region. The control over the oil and gas resources of the Persian Gulf region is a major US strategic objective, the other being the security of Israel as an ally and an outpost of the West in the region. Obviously, the US wants pliant states in the Persian Gulf region for safeguarding its interests. The attitude of defiance exhibited by Iran towards the US, since the advent of the Islamic Revolution, set in motion a process that has resulted in the prevailing enmity between the two countries.

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s steadfast support to the Palestinian cause and its opposition to Israel are seen by Washington and Tel Aviv as serious threats to the Jewish state’s existence. In essence, Washington considers the Islamic Revolution as a threat to the US-friendly order in the Middle East. Therefore, it has imposed unilateral sanctions and taken a number of other steps to contain Iran and to bring about a change of regime in the country.

The US-Iran tensions have been aggravated by the serious differences between them on Iran’s nuclear programme. The US and other Western countries have essentially demanded of Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme because they consider it as a precursor to the development of nuclear weapons. Iran, while insisting on its right to carry out uranium enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it is a party, has categorically stated that its nuclear programme is peaceful in character and that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. However, these declarations have not satisfied the Western countries. Consequently, the UN Security Council with the Western backing has imposed a number of sanctions on Iran which were weakened considerably thanks to the efforts of Russia and China.

Additionally, the US has imposed its own sanctions because of its concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme, the latest ones barring financial dealings with the Central Bank of Iran to curtail Tehran’s oil and gas exports. It is the US hope that these economic sanctions would persuade Iran to reconsider its nuclear programme to bring it in line with the Western demands. But the US and Israel have not ruled out the possibility of air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent it from the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

As a demonstration of the US seriousness on the subject, President Barack Obama stated categorically on March 4 in a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that he would not hesitate to use force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. However, despite the Israeli pressure for an early air strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, the US believes that diplomacy backed by sanctions still has a chance to overcome the current impasse on the Iranian nuclear issue. It is also cognisant of the dangerous strategic, political and economic consequences of air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Persian Gulf and Palestine. The US economy that is registering a fragile recovery may relapse into a severe recession or even a depression if the oil prices shoot up as a result of the air strikes on Iran. Therefore, Obama in his speech at the meeting of AIPAC also cautioned against “loose talk of war” with Iran.

The Economist magazine in its issue of February 25-March 2 concluded that just now the change in Iran’s nuclear programme “is more likely to come about through sanctions and diplomacy than war.” It is also interesting to note that despite the concerns of the Arab countries about Iran’s nuclear programme, the Jordanian Prime Minister has warned that any military action against Iran because of its nuclear activities would be “disastrous” for the whole of the Middle East. Earlier, the Russian Foreign Minister had voiced similar views.

The US pressure on Pakistan to forego the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project must be viewed in the context of the foregoing. Its real purpose is to ratchet up pressure on Iran more than anything else. But if we concede the US demand, it would have serious negative consequences for Pakistan, which is facing a virtual energy crisis because of electricity and gas shortages. The alternative project that would bring gas through pipeline from Turkmenistan (TAPI) would not be feasible in the near future because of the continuing armed conflict in Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Iran signed the Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) in June 2009. The Government of Pakistan has already determined that the imported natural gas from Iran would provide the cheapest and most suitable fuel for power generation. It has been estimated that 750 mmcfd gas would help generate around 4,000MW of electricity, besides providing job opportunities in the backward areas of Balochistan and Sindh. Iran has already laid the 56-inch diameter pipeline for a distance of 900 km from Assaluyeh to Iran Shehr. The remaining 200 km to bring the pipeline to the Pakistani border are likely to be completed in the next two years. Pakistan, on its part, is planning to complete its segment of the pipeline by the end of 2014.

From the economic point of view, it makes eminent sense for Pakistan to complete the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project as early as possible to meet its fast-growing energy requirements. The government’s decision to stand firm on this project despite the US pressure is commendable and must be welcomed. While we must make a sincere effort to reconcile our differences with the US on different issues with a view to developing friendly relations with it, we cannot allow Washington to dictate to us, especially on issues of vital strategic and economic importance.

The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project is too important for us strategically, politically and economically to be discarded at the behest of the US. We must, therefore, use different diplomatic channels to convey our point of view on the issue appropriately to the US. It is ironical that while the US is pushing us to strengthen our economic and commercial links with India, it should be pressurising us to distance ourselves from our important neighbour to the west for the sake of its own perceived interests!

Pakistan’s long-term interests lie in strengthening its friendly ties and cooperation with Iran rather than otherwise. In view of the past US practice of subjecting us to sanctions and pressures for its own designs, it would be prudent on our part to reduce our economic and military dependence on it. The situation also calls for intensified efforts on our part to enhance self-reliance and strengthen relations with China and Russia both of which may be interested in financing the IP gas pipeline.

Source: The Nation, 6 March 2012

 
 
 
 
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Pakistan: Moving the Economy Forward Publisher: Lahore School of Economics, 2013

 
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Ishtiaq Ahmed’s interesting book demonstrates how and why a weak and apolitical army evolved into the most powerful institution in Pakistan, virtually having de facto veto power over politics. It also controls Pakistan’s nuclear wea...

 
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A Sri Lankan constitutional amendment done with Indian backing to devolve autonomy to provinces remains "historically significant and indispensable", says a new book by a well known political scientist from the island nation.

 
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Ishtiaq Ahmed’s latest book is another outstanding piece of scholarship by an erudite scholar. This intellectually stimulating work is an important addition to the corpus of writings on modern and contemporary Pakistan, which by design an...

 
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Contrary to popular wisdom in India, a new book on Ravana, the 'demon king' in the Ramayana epic, says he ruled a rich and vast kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka, wrote books and built a maze of underground tunnels to protect his empire....

 
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A courageous, comprehensive and no-holds-barred account, by a veteran journalist, of a 66-year-old nation that is still trying to find its identity and fighting its own demons…

 
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The 30-year-old ethnic conflict in the Sri Lankan state, an essentially Sinhalese majoritarian preserve, and the uncompromising and relentlessly violent Tamil leadership claiming a separate state, Tamil Eelam, on behalf of the Tamil minority of...

 
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Book: India's Foreign Policy: A Reader; Edited: Kanti P. Bajpai and Harsh V.Pant Critical Issues in Indian Politics Series; Publisher: OUP Price: Rs 1095; Pages: 464

 
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Such a massive tome (663 pages) on a country that calls itself India’s only permanent friend in South Asia demands serious attention. Bhutanese scholarship is so rare and scholarship on Bhutan has been so scanty since M...

 
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India and China have shared historical ties and, as immediate neighbours, have seen many ups and downs in their relations. As a result, bilateral ties between the two countries...

 
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Delhi-based poet Sudeep Sen has been invited to address the Nobel Laureate Week being held in Saint Lucia, a sovereign island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea, in January. Mr. Sen is the first Indian, and the only one thu...

 
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Book: Fountainhead of Jihad Author: Vahid Brown and Don Rassler Publisher: Hachette India Price: Rs 650

 
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'Imperialists, Nationalists, Democrats: The Collected Essays of Sarvepalli Gopal'  edited by Srinath Raghavan. Permanent Black, 444 pages, Rs 895....

 
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Samudra Manthan: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the Indo-Pacific Author: C. Raja Mohan Publisher: OUP Price: Rs 895 Pages: 329

 
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Author: Raghu Rai Publisher: Niyogi Books Price: Rs 1495 Pages: 115

 
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BOOK: "False Sanctuaries: Stories from the Troubled Territories of South Asia", AUTHOR: Meenakshi Iyer;  PUBLISHER: Bibliophile South Asia (Promila & Co.);  PAGES: 282; 

 
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Like so much else in India’s recent past, the First Afghan War (1839-42) means little to India’s elites. But the military history of the British Raj has been a specially neglected domain. With their many other preoccupations, India&...

 
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Journalist-author Frances Harrison tells ANJANA RAJAN her book on the human suffering engendered by Sri Lanka’s “hidden war” is written with the belief that if people know, they will care

 
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"La Nueva India" ( The New India) is the first Latin American book on the rising of India in the twenty first century in the Spanish language. It was launched on December 4 at Santiago, Chile.

 
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After Joseph S Nye coined the term “Soft Power” (culture, language etc), it became a fad and, for some, an academic necessity to use it to discuss notions of ‘power’ in international politics. Though accepted, still unmo...

 
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This study seeks to solve the following puzzle: In 1947, the Pakistan military was poorly trained and poorly armed. It also inherited highly vulnerable territory vis-à-vis the much bigger India, aggravated because of serious disputes wit...

 
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Author / Editor: P R Kumaraswamy   Middle East Institute at New Delhi, 2012   Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon for MEI@ND, September 2012  

 
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Book: Ramkinkar: The Man and the Artist Author: A. Ramachandran Publisher: NGMA Pages: 168 + plates

 
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The middle class will decide the course of liberalisation in India which will become more micro-level in search of solutions to problems, says writer and journalist Hindol Sengupta in his new book, "The Liberals".

 
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The future of Afghanistan depends upon how it strengthens its fledgling democratic institutions and arrests corruption, says Sujeet Sarkar, the author of a new book on the war-ravaged country.

 
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Author(s): Bipul Chatterjee and Joseph George Publisher: CUTS International

 
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Author(s): Robert D. Lamb, Liora Danan, Joy Aoun, Sadika Hameed, Kathryn Mixon, and Denise St. Peter Publisher :Center for Strategic and International Studies ISBN 978-0-89206-738-1 (pb)

 
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Book: Afghanistan in Transition Beyond 2014? Author: Shanthie Mariet D`Souza (Ed.) Pages: 264 Price : Rs. 795 Publisher: Pentagon  

 
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Book: The Prabhakaran Saga Author: S. Murari Publisher: Sage Publishers Pages: 362 Price: Rs.425

 
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Authors: Rumel Dahiya and Ashok K. Behuria 2012

 
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Book: The Unfinished Memoirs Author: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Translated by Dr Fakrul Alam with a preface by Sheikh Hasina) Publisher: Penguin Viking Pages: 323 Price: Rs 699

 
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The book is a chronological account of the partiation of Punjab Province of British India

 
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Book: Nepal in Transition: From People’s War to Fragile Peace Author: Edited by Sebastian von Einsiedel, David M. Malone and Suman Pradhan Publisher: Cambridge University Press Pages: 398...

 
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Book: The Taliban Cricket Club Author: Timeri N. Murari Publisher: Aleph Pages: 325 Price: Rs 595

 
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Burma has been ruled by a succession of military regimes which rank among the most oppressive dictatorships in the world.

 
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In these turbulent times, Jawaharlal Nehru's policies of non-alignment and mixed economy need to be revisited, says P.C. Jain, author of a book on India's foreign policy during the first prime minister's tenure.

 
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The killing of Osama bin Laden spotlighted Pakistan's unpredictable political dynamics, which are often driven by conspiracy theory, paranoia, and a sense of betrayal. In Pakistan, the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto famously declared, t...

 
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The growing English language publishing industry in India has taken a step north with three veteran publishers - David Davidar, Ravi Singh and Kapish G. Mehra - joining ranks to push high-end literary fiction from the subcont...

 
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The subcontinent can become a paradise in the region by retaining cultural, social and political identities of countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, says former Pakistani Army officer, journalist, writer and commentator Abdul Rahman Si...