• Shehbaz meets leaders from Iran, Turkiye, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and other states; holds meetings on sidelines of SCO moot
• Russian president says infrastructure for Pakistan-Russia Stream can help Islamabad secure badly needed LNG
SAMARKAND: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif rubbed shoulders with leaders of ‘the other economic bloc’ at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan on Thursday, where he was told by Russian President Vladimir Putin that pipeline gas supplies to Pakistan were possible since part of the infrastructure was already in place.
The prime minister, who was accompanied by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and other senior officials, also met with the leaders of Turkiye, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and other states on the sidelines of the summit.
The SCO — made up of China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the ex-Soviet Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — was set up in 2001 as a political, economic and security organisation to rival Western institutions.
In his meeting with Putin, the PM said Pakistan was committed to expanding cooperation with Russia across all areas of mutual benefit including food security, trade and investment, energy, defence and security.
The two leaders discussed bilateral ties and exchanged views on regional and international issues.
The prime minister thanked President Putin for his country’s solidarity and support for the people affected by catastrophic floods in Pakistan.
The two leaders agreed to convene the next meeting of the Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) in Islamabad at an early date.
He also appreciated Russia’s constructive role in Afghanistan, adding that both Islamabad and Moscow had a stake in a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. PM Shehbaz said it was essential to intensify the pace of international engagement on Afghanistan and reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to support all regional and international efforts to stabilise Afghanistan.
During the meeting, Mr Putin discussed the possibility of activating the Pakistan-Russia Stream Gas Pipeline project, which could provide the infrastructure needed by Pakistan for LNG deliveries, APP quoted a statement issued by the Russian presidency as saying.
The long-delayed gas pipeline vital to the south Asian country’s economy — the Pakistan Stream gas project, also known as the North-South gas pipeline - is to be built in collaboration with Russian companies.
The two countries agreed in 2015 to build a 1,100 km (683 mile)-long pipeline to deliver imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast to power plants in the northeastern province of Punjab.
The pipeline’s designed annual capacity stands at 12.4 billion cubic metres (bcm), with the possibility to be increased to 16 bcm.
The project, due to be launched in 2020, was delayed after Russia had to replace the initial participant, which was hit by Western sanctions.
In a one-on-one with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, PM Shehbaz dwelt on the Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission and agreed to further promote bilateral relations in diverse fields.
The prime minister also underscored the need for closer bilateral engagement to boost economic and energy cooperation, operationalise barter trade, open border sustenance markets, and ensure the facilitation of Pakistani pilgrims travelling to Iran.
It was also agreed that Pakistan would be sending a delegation to discuss measures for expanded cooperation in bilateral trade and energy sectors.
In his meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, the PM resolved to ensure the timely completion of the important CASA-1000 power project, aimed at the transmission of electricity from the Central Asian state.
In their meeting, the prime minister emphasized the expansion of cooperation in the field of road transportation and underscored the importance of connectivity and underlined Pakistan’s readiness to facilitate the provision of access to Gwadar and Karachi to Tajikistan.
In his talks with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the PM reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the timely completion of Trans-Afghan Railway project and expressed satisfaction at the successful completion of field expedition inside Afghanistan by the technical teams from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan.
Once completed, the project would effectively link the Central Asian countries with the world through the seaports of Karachi and Gwadar, he added.
Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2022