The latest talks to finalise an agreement to start work on the North-South Gas Pipeline Project (NSGPP) shows that Pakistan and Russia are keen on taking strategic engagement further. The discussions in Islamabad are crucial, as they will pave the way to kick-start the much-delayed project. The initiative, stretching hundreds of kilometres from Karachi to Lahore, will be the largest in the history of Russian-Pakistani economic cooperation.
Given the current energy crisis in general and our dependence on gas that accounts for nearly 46 percent of Pakistan’s total primary energy supplies, the project is of immense significance for Pakistan. Due to past governments’ irrational policies and their inability to increase indigenous gas production, the gas crisis is coming sooner than later. The gap between demand and supply has grown to a level that experts estimate that our consumption will surpass indigenous supply by 4.6 billion cubic feet by 2022-23. Therefore, given the delays in the completion of other energy projects, for instance, the Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India Pipeline Project (TAPI), the most viable option to bridge the growing gap is to prioritise NSGPP.
Energy projects are crucial for our economic progress. But the government’s inability to solve Pakistan’s energy crisis has sapped our economic growth so far. Many industrialists shifted their production units elsewhere, especially to Bangladesh. Nevertheless, the Russian backed project can mitigate the worsening gas shortage and help Pakistan achieve economic stability. Similarly, Russia is interested in the project because it will open up Pakistan’s market for Russian companies. The benefits that the two sides will reap from the project make it a win-win deal.
What is important now for the two sides is to make these talks a success so that the work can be started on NSGPP without further ado. Moreover, if the project is completed amicably, the possibilities of developing a multi-dimensional relationship between Islamabad and Moscow will grow manifold.