|Pakistan rejects U.S. call to cancel Iran pipeline||
Pakistan is not bowing to US pressure over its planned gas pipeline to Iran and is poshing ahead with the project.
Pakistan reasserted its firm resolve to cooperate with Iran, particularly in the energy sector, as the U.S. renewed its opposition to the multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project – this time more subtly through its consulate general in Lahore.
“We are a sovereign country and we will do whatever is in the interest of Pakistan,” Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said while responding to a question on “Prime Minister Online,” a program hosted by Pakistan Television and Waqt News.
Earlier, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar hit back hard after Hillary Clinton threatened Pakistan with sanctions.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threatened sanctions if Pakistan goes ahead with the $1.5 billion pipeline, a project that Washington views as undermining its attempts to squeeze Iran.
The following day, Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar offered a harsh riposte.
“All of these projects are in Pakistan’s national interest and will be pursued and completed irrespective of any extraneous considerations,” Ms. Khar said. “As far as our bilateral relations and co-operation are concerned, we do not make it contingent on views and policies of any third country.”
For once, it appears Pakistan and India are on the same page. New Delhi, too, has argued that it needs Iranian crude oil to meet its energy needs, despite pressure from the U.S. to cut back.
Still, Pakistan is likely to prove a more difficult ally to cajole. Firstly, Pakistan’s energy crisis is greater than India’s. The country relies on gas for half of its energy needs and is already facing massive shortfalls and daily blackouts which have gutted industrial production. For sure, the planned pipeline wouldn’t come on line until 2014 at the earliest. But Islamabad views the project as a key medium-term strategy to get itself out of a hole.
But there’s a second reason that Pakistan isn’t listening. After U.S. helicopters mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the border with Afghanistan in November, Islamabad froze diplomatic relations with the U.S. That means no delegations of senior Washington officials are visiting Pakistan. The country’s leaders remain furious that the Obama administration has not officially apologized for the strike.
In this climate it seems unlikely Pakistan will do what the U.S. wants, especially when – for now at least – it is not taking talk of sanctions seriously, knowing the U.S. wants a stable and economically-vibrant Pakistan to ensure Taliban militants don’t carve out a larger foot-hold there.
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|Last Updated on 02 March 2012 19:00|