The long-pending Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project inched closer to reality on Monday with the launch its final phase under which a 781-km-long pipeline would be laid on the Pakistan side of the border. To run from Iran’s border to Nawabshah in Sindh, the pipeline’s construction was inaugurated in the Iranian port city of Chabahar by the Presidents of the two countries.
Signalling the importance that Pakistan attaches to the pipeline despite reservations expressed by the U.S., President Asif Ali Zardari took along with him a 300-strong delegation. Though several heads of state had been invited, reports from Chabahar point to a no-show.“The completion of the pipeline is in the interest of peace, security and progress of the two countries. It will consolidate the economic, political and security ties of the two nations,” said the Presidents in a joint statement.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Zardari said the pipeline was crucial for the development of the neighbours. As for U.S. reservations , Pakistan Foreign Office has been maintaining that the country was not in a fix over the threat of sanctions for doing business with Iran.
“It is in our national interest to go ahead with this project as Pakistan is an energy-deficient country. We have seen reports regarding U.S. concerns, but we hope that all our friends including Washington will show more understanding on this issue,” a Foreign Office spokesman said to questions regarding the threat of sanctions.
According to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the ‘Peace Pipeline’ was the symbol of the determination of the two nations to resist domination. Stating that the pipeline could be extended to the north of Pakistan, he flagged the fact that the project was going ahead despite U.S. sanctions against Iran’s oil and gas sector because of Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The 900 km Iran-leg of the pipeline has been constructed but Pakistan could not get its end started owing to financing problems and the fear of sanctions. It got kick-started only after Iran agreed to chip in. Construction on the $1.5-billion pipeline is expected to be completed by December 2014. Iran is to supply 21.5 million cubic metres of gas from its biggest gas field in South Pars to Nawabshah — the hub of Pakistan’s gas pipelines in Sindh — on a daily basis..