Energy trade and global politics

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met Russian President Vladimir V. Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Council of Heads of State meeting in Samarkand on Thursday. Prime Minister Shehbaz told his Russian counterpart that Pakistan was committed to expanding cooperation with Russia across all areas of mutual benefit including food security, trade & investment, energy, defense, and security. During the meeting, the two leaders held in-depth discussions regarding bilateral ties between the two nations and exchanged views on regional and international issues. The Prime Minister thanked President Putin for Russia’s expression of solidarity and support for the people affected by the massive floods in Pakistan. The two leaders agreed to convene the next meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) in Islamabad at an early date. According to the Russian media, President Putin emphasized the need to work on connectivity and energy projects, while the possibility of the construction of the Pakistan-Russia Stream Gas Pipeline was also discussed. However, both leaders noted that the political stability in Afghanistan was essential to accomplish the connectivity projects between their countries.

Pakistan-Russia bilateral relations had witnessed various ups and downs since the formation of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and the former Soviet Union on 1 May 1948. The cold war events, followed by the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan badly hurt the bilateral trade and economic ties while both nations had no military ties during this era. After the dissolution of Ex. USSR, Pakistan forged close diplomatic, trade, and military relations with former Soviet Republics including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Central Asian Republics (CARs), and Balkan nations.

As for as Pakistan’s relations with Russian Federation are concerned, these largely fell prey to the global US-Russia rivalry in the past while in the current scenario it became further difficult for an economically weak and IMF-dependent Pakistan to pursue its desire to purchase cheaper Russian oil, gas and other essential commodities in utter violation of US and western sanctions against Russa. Historically, the successive Pakistani government never accomplished the Pak-Iran gas pipeline project despite the fact that Iran completed construction of the part of the gas pipeline within its territory a decade ago, while Pakistan has practically abounded the project due to western sanctions against Tehran.

No government has ever worked seriously to purchase cheaper energy from its neighborhood, while no previously proposed energy projects from the Central Asian States including the CASA-1000 and TAPI gas pipeline projects could be comprehended mainly due to the law and order situation in Afghanistan, which is less likely to improve in near future. However, Pakistani leaders had been using this issue for political point scoring and did not buy cheaper Russian energy since the start of the Russia-Ukraine crisis at the beginning of the current year. Whereas several other nations including India, Bangladesh, and South Korea have been purchasing oil and gas from Iran and Russia in recent years despite global sanctions against them.

In fact, Russia is in search of new customers for its commodity therefore, President Putin offered to construct a gas pipeline from Russia to Pakistan via Central Asia and Afghanistan, apart from that, Sharif has no such intention so far. Apparently, global rivalry and Political antagonism had ruined Pakistan otherwise the country faces no scarcity of talent, resources, and opportunities at any stage.