WITH things being what they are, it seems the country will be better off establishing and cementing its relations with Russia. Better late than never, bilateral ties between Russia and Pakistan are long overdue and hold great potential as a countermeasure to warming ties between India and the United States, which is a geostrategic containment measure of China through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, comprising Australia, India, Japan and the US.
Pakistan can work with both Beijing and Moscow for its security interests and should help ensure an inclusive government in Kabul.
Pakistan and Russia carried out their first-ever joint military drills in 2016. The 1,100km Pak Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP) project is scheduled to be completed by 2023 which will be transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from terminals in Karachi and Gwadar to Lahore.
According to an agreement signed in July 2021, Moscow has given Islamabad a majority 74 per cent stake in the project and pledged to extend expertise and loans to Islamabad. The PSGP is one of the largest Russian investments in Pakistan since the erstwhile Soviet Union assisted in developing the oil and gas explorations in the 1960s and in building the Pakistan Steel Mills in the 1970s.
Pakistan has also granted Russia access to the warm water port of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea. With great powers, China with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and Russia as a strategic, economic and energy partner, Pakistan may well forge ties at all levels across Central Asia, Eurasia and South Asia.
Pakistan’s exports to Russia were a mere $175.2 million in 2021. A group of Russian Gazprom-led energy companies has sought to invest $14 billion in the gas infrastructure in Pakistan, with two gas pipelines and underground storage facilities to be built. Russia will also send some gas commodities from its Iranian deposits to Pakistan as the nation needs more and more gas.
The energy cooperation between the two countries is a reflection of improving ties between Moscow and Islamabad.
It is about time Pakistan assessed its weaknesses and requirements, and then reached out to the global community for building trade and commercial ties. We should be bullish in our approach, overcome any political and bureaucratic hurdles, and transform Pakistan into a regional economic and trade hub.
It is time we proved right the Institute of European Business Administration’s assessment when it ranked Pakistanis the ‘fourth most intelligent people’ in the world.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2022