Progress in Iran talks?
gas from Turkey and Turkmenistan.
While American spokespersons might talk about other ways to resolve Pakistan’s energy crisis they know full well that beyond the 900MW that will be added to Pakistan’s national grid by US-financed upgrading and the repair of existing generation facilities there is little that can be done in the short or even medium term to find other sources to meet Pakistan’s burgeoning energy needs.
Equally important, for the next 24 months or more the US needs Pakistani cooperation to effect an orderly withdrawal of foreign troops and equipment from Afghanistan and to promote the intraAfghan dialogue that alone can ensure a modicum of peace and stability in Afghanistan after the Nato withdrawal. The last thing they want is the Salala type disruption that would inevitably follow any American effort to impose sanctions on Pakistan. In my mind, there are questions about the Iran-Pakistan pipeline. These include the award of the contract to an Iranian company for the construction of the pipeline at the exorbitant cost of $2 million per kilometre for a 42-inch pipeline when the Iranians have built a 56-inch pipeline at less than $1m per kilometre and other pipelines in the region have cost much less.
It includes the question of the agreement reached on the pricing of the gas and whether we negotiated the best possible deal. It also includes the question of the degree to which the Iranians have made a firm commitment to accept payment in the form of exports of wheat, rice and other agriculture products for the gas they will supply and whether fool-proof arrangements have been devised for this purpose.
The one question that does not arise is US sanctions. It is perhaps too much to ask that our negotiators put out a briefing paper addressing these issues and that our own private-sector experts on oil and gas offer their comments. Globally, however, it is not the Iran-Pakistan pipeline deal but the resumption of the nuclear issue discussions between the Iranians and the P-5 countries in Almaty late last month and the results of this discussion that have dominated the headlines. In concrete terms what happened in Almaty can be summed up as a modest proposal being tabled by the P-5 to ease sanctions on Iran’s gold trade and on certain banking transactions in exchange for an Iranian shutdown of the centrifuges at Fordo, the suspension of uranium enrichment to 20 per cent at their other plants and the export of the existing stock of 20 per cent enriched uranium to another country presumably to be stored or to be converted into rods for use in medical reactors. The proposal was not accepted but the Iranian negotiator termed some of the points raised by the P-5 “as more realistic compared to what they said in the past”. The Iranian foreign minister maintained that “things are taking a turning point” and President Ahmadinejad talked in this context of negotiations being better than confrontation.