Pakistan’s foreign ministry appears to have correctly identified that the way forward is to build deeper economic and diplomatic cooperation with regional partners. With a long, strong friendship with China, and budding trade route projects with Turkey and Kazakhstan, this new approach is going well—most surprising, perhaps though, is its recent partnership with Russia in oil and gas.
The government of Pakistan’s collaboration with Russia includes building a 1,100-kilometre pipeline that will allow Pakistan to operate more liquefied natural gas terminals. More and more developments about the ambitious project have been conveyed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Petroleum Nadeem Babar all throughout this month, including the news that the government would auction 20 new oil and gas exploration blocks during January as part of its strategy to achieve self-reliance in the energy sector, and the agreement whereby Pakistan will have a majority share of 51 percent to 74 percent in the project, while Russia will own the remainder. The latest and final update on this project has come on Thursday, where the Joint Russian-Pakistani Technical Committee for the implementation of the pipeline confirmed the establishment of a special purpose company, namely Pakistan Stream Pipeline (Pvt.) Ltd for the execution of the project, and that both parties were revising and re-drafting the documents for the company.
These updates show that the pipeline project is being taken seriously and moving into further stages; if kept at this pace, it seems likely that work on the project will start by the middle of 2021. This is a positive step forward—not just a necessary one considering Pakistan’s domestic gas production has plateaued, driving up the import bill, but also as a diplomatic initiative to strengthen ties with Russia. A long-term economic project like this one means a more long-lasting friendship or at least a confirmation that in the event of a conflict with India, Russia will remain neutral.