By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan and Russia will ink energy related agreements this week on laying an offshore gas pipeline and the North-South liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline involving an investment of US $ 10 billion, indicating , indicating a major shift in foreign policy of Islamabad, according to media reports.
Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) – a state-owned company established to handle gas import matters – is working on different gas pipeline projects and its managing director and the petroleum secretary will be part of the delegation, leaving for Moscow on Sunday (December 20)
ISGS is also working on the $10 billion Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (Tapi) gas pipeline to connect South and Central Asia and construction work on the scheme in Pakistan will start in March next year.
These projects , like China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, being called a game changer for Pakistan as they will not only lead to regional connectivity, but will also meet energy needs of the South Asian country.
Amid a long-running tussle with Europe and the United States over the annexation of Ukrainian region of Crimea, Russia is looking for alternative markets and wants to capitalise on the growing demand in South Asia.
Russia, which controls and manages huge gas reserves in energy-rich Iran, plans to export gas by laying an offshore pipeline through Gwadar Port to Pakistan and India, which are seen as alternative markets because Moscow fears it may lose energy consumers in Europe over the Crimea issue, the English daily Express Tribune reported.
Russia has been a big gas exporter to European Union (EU) countries and Turkey since long and despite US anger the European bloc has continued to make imports to meet its energy needs.
Moscow receives gas from Turkmenistan and then exports it to EU states. Later, it has got gas deposits in Iran as well and is looking to gain a foothold in the markets of Pakistan and India.
Earlier, Pakistan and Russia had reached an understanding on signing the offshore gas pipeline agreement during Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s visit to Sochi, Russia. Now, during the upcoming trip, the two sides are poised to ink memoranda of understanding (MoUs) for the offshore pipeline and the North-South (Lahore-Karachi) LNG pipeline.
Pakistan has been experiencing gas shortages, particularly in winter, for the past one decade as domestic production especially in the South-Western province of Balochistan has stood static with new additions being offset by depleting old deposits.
In a bid to tackle the crisis, the present government previously led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and now Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has kicked off LNG imports from Qatar under a 15-year agreement two and a half years ago and is bringing supplies through other sources as well.