Two days after President Zardari skipped his Tehran visit to finalise Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, the US envoy to Islamabad says his country has deep concerns on the project.“We do have concerns about Iran’s potential development as a nuclear power and that we are not alone in that regard and that this is the strongly held consensus view of the international community,” said US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson on Monday.
During his visit at Quaid-e-Azam’s Mausoleum in Karachi, the ambassador also said that his country was ready to cooperate with Pakistan in the energy sector in order to curb the energy shortage faced by the country.Just a day before President Zardari’s making a dash for the UK, his spokesman Farhatullah Babar had confirmed to the Iranian news agency IRNA that he would stop over in Tehran for a day for talks on bilateral and regional issues, and it was almost certain that the two countries would sign a contract to finalise the vital gasline project.
The cancellation of the visit, political observers believe, was the result of US pressure on Pakistan for not going ahead with concluding such a lucrative deal for Iran. And there appears to be a lot of weight in this argument as Islamabad witnessed a flurry of activity by US diplomatic circles over last week.US opposition to this project, which would give cheap gas to energy-hungry Pakistan and funds to cash-strapped Iran, is no secret as it is doing all it can to isolate Tehran in the global village of nations.
To get this project axed by Pakistan, the US has lately come up with his dirty dollars and ‘commitments’ to help Pakistan solve its energy problem.Relevant in this context were the ‘renewed strategic commitments’ by the Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group, which met at Islamabad last Monday and Tuesday. The two sides agreed to enhance military ties “on a prioritised set of Pakistan’s defence requirements”. A Pakistani delegation would go to Washington early next year to finalise the deal.
It was also learnt that Islamabad would get $700 million in Cooperative Support Fund by next March; already it has received around $1.2 billion during the current year. The US also agreed to finance an international consultancy to help Pakistan procure LNG to get over its energy shortages at “affordable cost”. But the question is can that ‘affordable cost’ be more affordable than the cheap gas and electricity offered by Tehran?Talking on the occasion, the US ambassador said that he would work for the betterment of the Pak-US relationship during his tenure as an ambassador in Pakistan.“We believe in religious independence,” Olson said, adding that his country wanted to co-operate with Pakistan in different other sectors as well.