The United States appears to have strong reservations over Pakistan-Iran relations, which have warmed in the last couple of months. The country wants to isolate Iran diplomatically and economically for continuing its controversial nuclear program. Therefore, the US appears to be in no mood of condoning Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project aimed to curb Pakistan's energy crisis. Clear and lucid warnings have also been conveyed to Pakistan earlier, but the country appears to be adamant to kick start the project.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, while addressing the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations in Washington, made it clear to Pakistan that if it proceeds with the proposed project, it will have to bear damaging consequences. Clinton said the US would initiate action against Pakistan, as the project is completely against the Iran Sanctions Act.
During Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Pakistan two weeks ago, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani vowed to continue with the project despite opposition from the US. The country considers the project most viable option to end energy crisis and promote other bilateral trade as well. Pakistani officials deem the project cost-effective and feasible, but the US believes if Pakistan starts work on the project, it will be difficult to pressure Iran not to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States and European Union have slapped economic sanctions on Iran besides oil embargo to render the state helpless. Iran is still being supported by Russia, China and some Latin American countries. The US wants all these countries to withdraw their support. The US believes the whole region will be in danger if Iran develops nuclear weapons – a charge that Iran denies vehemently.
Pakistan and the US had strained relations after 26 Pakistani soldiers were killed in an attack on Salala check post on November 26 last year. The NATO forces launched an unprovoked attack on the check post in Mohmand Agency - which resulted in the closure of NATO supply to the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Roads still remain closed for NATO truckers. The equipments are being delivered through air routes, resulting in billions of dollars of extra expenditure over the supply.
If Pakistan decides to go ahead with its gas pipeline project, then relations will get further strained. The US has offered Pakistan financial help of around one billion dollars if the latter considers a gas pipeline project with central asian state Turkmenistan. Pakistan should take the warning seriously and pay heed on an alternate pipeline project to end the energy crisis in the country in near future.