Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Moscow late on Wednesday on a two-day visit to push for the construction of a long-delayed, multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline to be built in collaboration with Russian companies.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov welcomed the prime minister upon arrival in Moscow. He was also presented with a guard of honour.
The prime minister's trip to meet President Vladimir Putin and discuss issues including economic cooperation comes hours after a number of Western nations hit Russia with new sanctions for its military deployment into parts of eastern Ukraine.
“Both countries are eager to launch the project at the earliest,” Pakistan's energy ministry spokesman told Reuters about the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline. He confirmed that Energy Minister Hammad Azhar is accompanying the PM on the visit.
The Prime Minister's Office also confirmed that Azhar was accompanying the premier alongside Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar, Commerce Adviser Abdul Razak Dawood, National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf and MNA Amir Mahmood Kiani.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill had arrived in Moscow ahead of the premier's visit.
In an interview ahead of his trip, PM Imran had expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine and the possibility of new sanctions and their effect on Islamabad's budding cooperation with Moscow.
It is unclear how the latest sanctions will affect the project, which would deliver imported Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from Karachi to power plants in Punjab.
The project is important for Pakistan — particularly the power sector — as the country's dependence on imported LNG grows in the face of dwindling indigenous gas supplies.
The pipeline project has already suffered delays because of earlier sanctions.
“This North-South pipeline suffered, one of the reasons ... was the companies we were negotiating with, turned out that US had applied sanctions on them,” PM Imran told Russia Today on Tuesday.
“So, the problem was to get a company that wasn't sanctioned,” he said of the project.
Pakistan-Russia collaboration on pipeline project
In 2015, Russia and Pakistan agreed in principle to build a 1,100 km-long pipeline to deliver imported LNG from Karachi to power plants in Punjab.
The pipeline's designed annual capacity stands at 12.4 billion cubic metres (bcm), with the possibility to be increased to 16bcm.
The cost will require investments of between $1.5bn, according to Russia, to as much as $3.5bn, estimated by Pakistan, with 26 per cent of it to be financed by Moscow and the remaining 74pc by Islamabad.
The project was to be launched in 2020, but Russia had to replace the initial participant after the company was hit by western sanctions not related to the Pakistan Stream project.
Currently the pipeline, a rare example of Russian participation without state gas company Gazprom, involves the Eurasian Pipeline Consortium, steel pipe maker TMK, which produces steel pipelines for the energy sector, and Operational Services Centre run by the Russian Energy Ministry.
Russian shareholders expect to return their investments from gas shipping fees.
Currently, feasibility studies are taking place on the project but there is no firm date set for the launch. According to Russian media reports, shareholder agreement for the Pakistan Stream should be signed this month.
On May 28, 2021, Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov and Pakistan's ambassador in Moscow Shafqat Ali Khan signed an agreement on behalf of their countries to build the Pakistan Stream gas pipeline.