From Russia, with love

Published: July 3, 2012

Russia has offered to become our new friend.

At a time when Pakistan and the United States are not enjoying good relations, due to stoppage of the Nato supply routes, Russia has come up with a plan to provide Pakistan financial and technical assistance, needed for its energy problems such as the Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran (TAPI) pipeline project, the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline and the (CASA-1000) power import project.

Is it a revival of relations between Pakistan and Russia to recover the trust lost during the war in Afghanistan in Ziaul Haq’s era? Whatever may be the reason; Russian cooperation with Pakistan will not only revive relations but will also balance Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Russia is a new friend, initiating to help Pakistan overcome its dilemma of energy shortage. The problem of energy crisis in Pakistan is a mammoth one and we should welcome all help, including Russia’s, for extending support for long-term gas and power import projects planned to avoid energy failures in the years to come.

Russia has offered to make available $500 million for the CASA-1000 MW power import project, to establish a power transmission system from Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The offer came during a meeting of a six-member delegation of the Russian Federation.

China and Russia are the only countries who have expressed an interest to support the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project despite pressure from the US that wants this project to be shelved due to its tense relations with Iran.

Pakistan’s entire energy system is predicted to collapse in case there is no more gas by 2020. Local gas production is projected to decline to 2.26 billion cubic feet gas per day (bcfd) in 2020-21, against the current 4.17 bcfd production.  Gas pipeline projects are economically feasible as imported gas would provide cheaper electricity to overcome loadshedding, the likes of which we are witnessing. The power shortfall reaches 8,000 megawatt in peak seasons and one bcfd Iranian gas can produce 5,000 MW of electricity. So, we need planning to arrange gas from different sources and IP and TAPI are the best available options to avoid the energy system from collapsing in the future. We should welcome the Russian offer of financing these power projects to overcome the energy crisis.

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Zafar Bhutta

A reporter on the Business Desk at The Express Tribune who is based in Islamabad.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.