Pakistan and Russia concluded joint inter-governmental talks after three days on Wednesday to amend an agreement related to the work on the North-South Gas Pipeline Project (NSGPP). This agreement to facilitate economic cooperation by the two countries was initially signed in 2015 to build a gas pipeline from Karachi to Kasur of over a thousand kilometres.
The Russian delegation was headed by DL Kapnik, Special Representative of the Russian Ministry of Energy for Project Implementation. Pakistan was represented by Ms Saira Najeeb, Managing Director of Inter State Gas Company (ISGS), the Russian nominated agency, in the talks.
Both sides agreed to sign a protocol for amendment in the inter-governmental agreement and discussed new structure and implementation of the project after the required approvals from their respective governments.
North-South Gas Pipeline Project
In 2015, the energy ministries of Russia and Pakistan discussed economic cooperation for the development of NSGPP. The project involves construction of a high-pressure gas transmission pipeline from Karachi to Kasur for transportation of re-gasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) towards northern side of the country. It is significant for Pakistan as we face an energy crisis and it can help us in mitigating the deteriorating gas shortage and assist us in achieving economic stability.
The project was met with frequent delays resulting in it being halted for 5 years. Russia has continued to show its keenness towards the project despite the delays and remained committed with it proving Moscow’s willingness to develop strategic ties with Pakistan. The project is set to open up Pakistan’s market for Russian companies. The outcomes of the project are beneficial for either sides.
The completion of the project with success can give way to the possibilities of developing stronger economic and bilateral relationship between Islamabad and Moscow.
In the past, Russia assisted Pakistan in forming the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), and Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL), the country’s major Oil and Gas sector company and the core provider of energy.
A government released statement said “The project will begin a new era of economic cooperation between Pakistan and Russian Federation,” said the statement.
Pakistan is part of another energy project that will transport natural gas from the Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India. It is called the Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India Pipeline Project (TAPI), which is delayed too.
Apart from trade and economic agreements, Russia and Pakistan have also signed a string of military agreements in recent years. Russian troops are stationed in Pakistan for joint exercises since 2018 when Pakistan signed a groundbreaking deal with Russia that allowed Russian military training of Pakistani army officers.
The deal was signed in the aftermath of Pakistan and the United States’ worsening relations which led to the US stopping its military exchange programs with Pakistan.
Pakistan and Russia first signed a defense cooperation agreement in 2014 to strengthen their defense relations. Both countries have used each other’s soils for counterterrorism military drills. Under the deal, Russia also sold four Mi-35M combat helicopters. Navies of the two countries also coordinated with one another.
“This cooperation is developing into many directions. So, there is quite a wide spectrum. And, of course, this is a reflection of our approach to the relations with Pakistan, which to our country has their own independent value for us” Russian ambassador to Pakistan, Alexey Dedov, said in a statement in 2018.
Pakistan-Russia in the past
Pakistan and Russia’s relations were turbulent during the cold war period specially after the Soviet-Afghan War when Pakistan was directly involved in aiding the United States and the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet Union. The bitterness maintained as Pakistan’s bases were used for military exercises and covert operations against the Soviet Union.
Peshawar Air base was used for the infamous 1960 U-2 incident, a reconnaissance mission in Soviet Union airspace by the United States involving Francis Gary Powers, an American pilot whose Central Intelligence Agency U-2 spy plane was shot down.
Russia has continued to maintain strong ties with Pakistan’s neighbor and rival India. Both the countries have strong trade and military ties since the cold war that they have maintained ever since. Despite US and Russia having volatile inter-relations, India has been successful in building strong ties with both the countries, something Pakistan previously failed to do so.
The new deals, agreements, diplomacy, military and defense exercises that are frequently conducted will give way to setting a new path in Russia-Pakistan relations in the years to come. Russia has already proved to be keen towards working with Pakistan. At this stage proper execution and implementation of projects is crucial.