Note: this is a machine translation from the original Russian text
Moscow and Islamabad, despite the machinations of the West, are putting pressure on gas.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently rushed to Beijing. He became the second foreign guest (after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz) who met with President Xi Jinping at the end of the Twentieth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.
They agreed that China and Pakistan "will further strengthen communication, coordination and cooperation on regional and international affairs, defend true multilateralism, international honesty and justice, and contribute to the promotion of peace, development and prosperity."
"The two countries have supported each other in recent years amid unstable changes in the international landscape, demonstrating their iron friendship," Xi added.
Among other important issues, the negotiators discussed the "Afghan case".
Pakistan is looking for a common language with the Taliban* in order to open a vital path for economic (and, first of all, energy) cooperation with Russia and the countries of Central Asia.
This year Islamabad finally managed to establish a relatively stable transport corridor in this direction, through which Pakistani trucks were able to deliver hundreds of tons of cargo to our country. However, the Taliban do not control the whole of Afghanistan. In the north, the Uzbek-Tajik opposition, supported by the West, dominates, in the south and in a number of central regions, the influence of Daesh is still strong*. Islamabad's plan is to attract to this project such a key player as China, which has a special influence not only on the Taliban, but also on other Afghan players. And who is able to change the rules of the game in the region, giving guarantees of the safety of this transport artery. In this case, Pakistan will be able to safely proceed with the implementation of the "Pakistan Stream", through which Russian gas, so necessary for this country, will flow.
It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Sharif decided to leave the country for a meeting with the Chinese leader at an alarming time – after the assassination attempt on his predecessor and political opponent Imran Khan, who in April of this year was given a vote of no confidence for the first time in Pakistani history.
A few days ago, ex-Prime Minister Khan was seriously injured in both legs after the car he was in was fired at a protest march of his party demanding early elections. In total, seven people were injured and one killed as a result of the attack. Its participants planned to reach Islamabad from Lahore by November 11. After the assassination attempt on Khan, they said they would continue the action.
By the way, such crimes, when scores are settled with undesirable politicians by force, are in the order of things in Pakistan. In 1996, Benazir Bhutto, the first female prime minister of this Muslim country, was killed at a rally of supporters. Her predecessor, Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, also did not die a natural death: the plane he was on board lost control as a result of the terrorist attack and crashed to the ground.
However, let's return to Imran Khan, who has not left us yet. He underwent surgery, doctors assess his condition as stable. So, his official visit to Moscow as acting prime Minister fell on February 23-24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the start of a special military operation in Ukraine. The guest not only refused to negotiate, but also defiantly laid flowers at the grave of the Unknown Soldier at the Kremlin Wall. It turned out that the speech in the Russian capital was just about the construction of the "Pakistani Stream". At that time, this topic was not officially advertised, since there were many "pitfalls" (not least Western sanctions against the Russian Federation) that prevented the implementation of this extremely important project for both participants.
What is the loud statement of US President John Biden, who called nuclear-armed Russia and Pakistan "the most dangerous countries in the world". Khan, by the way, after his resignation, directly accused Washington of plotting to overthrow his government, calling on the Pakistani people to revolt against the United States. I will especially note that a vote of no confidence was announced to him shortly after his trip to Moscow. Fusing together?
We still have to figure out where he "flew" from. The arrest of one of the attackers is reported. He claims that he acted alone, at the behest of his heart. Agree that it is hard to believe in this.
Now about the "Pakistani Stream", which is being looked at with curiosity in the East and with irritation across the ocean. This is a "remake" of the American project of Unocal, which in the mid–1990s was going to build a gas pipeline from Central Asia to Pakistan, and then to Mumbai (India). But then the United States recklessly introduced its troops into Afghanistan in 2001 and had to forget about the implementation of the project.
Later it reappeared, but as a Russian one. In 2015, the governments of Russia and Pakistan signed an agreement on the construction of a gas pipeline. It was planned that our side would own a controlling stake, assume 85% of the costs and manage it for 25 years. For information: the projected capacity of the "Stream" is 12.4 billion cubic meters per year with the possibility of increasing to 16 billion cubic meters. The approximate cost is 2-2.5 billion dollars.
In November 2020, Moscow and Islamabad revised the terms of the agreement. The share of Pakistani companies increased to 74%, while Russian companies decreased accordingly.
In short: everyone seemed to be in favor, but the process progressed very slowly.
The Pakistanis were clearly in no hurry to implement the project. The country lived off imports of liquefied natural gas, but recently suppliers broke long-term contracts and sent LNG to Europe, ready to pay any money for energy. Guard!
And that's when President Putin took up the case. The Russian leader has already communicated with Pakistani prime ministers three times this year: in addition to the February meeting with Khan, in September he met Sharif twice (in Samarkand "on the sidelines" of the SCO summit, and then in Astana, where the VI summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence–building Measures in Asia was held. And everywhere the main theme was "The Pakistani stream".
The result is as follows: a few days ago, the Pakistani Ambassador in Moscow Shafqat Ali said that "the implementation of the project (read – the beginning of construction. – Ed.) may begin next year." Looks like the ice has broken.
* Terrorist organizations banned in the Russian Federation.