Russia has the capability to resolve Pakistan’s energy crisis and thus unleash its newfound partner’s vast economic potential. That could in turn further stabilize South Asia by lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty with time in accordance with its government’s ambitious vision.
Pakistan has successfully rebranded itself from previously being regarded as an American vassal state to nowadays proving that it’s an independent pole of influence in the emerging Multipolar World Order after practicing a policy of principled neutrality regarding Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine despite immense Western pressure to sacrifice its national interests in this respect. This isn’t just in full alignment with the non-bloc vision articulated in its recent National Security Policy from January but is also highly strategic when it comes to the energy dimension of bilateral relations.
The Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline (PSGP) is one of the world’s multipolar flagship projects because it’ll unleash that South Asian state’s full economic potential upon its completion and subsequent fulfilment of its urgent energy needs. Observers shouldn’t forget that this country also hosts the Belt & Road Initiative’s (BRI) flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which thus makes Pakistan of crucial geo-economic importance to the dual Chinese-Russian engines of the emerging Multipolar World Order.
There’s more to Russian-Pakistani energy ties than just that, which is already extremely strategic as it is, since the Iranian Minister of Petroleum suggested in early January prior to his trip to Moscow alongside President Raisi that the Islamic Republic was interested in the Eurasian Great Power facilitating its energy exports to Pakistan and India. While no follow-up reports have since been released, his hint can be understood as alluding to the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline proposal that could prospectively be built by their mutual Russian partner and thus be mutually beneficial for all.
Then there was the talk in mid-February ahead of Pakistani Prime Minister Khan’s trip to Moscow of exploring the possibility of building a Kazakhstan-Pakistan pipeline through Central Asia and Afghanistan with Russian support. Just like with IPI, there haven’t been any subsequent reports about this proposal’s progress but it nevertheless remains promising since it’s certainly within all parties’ capabilities to advance this project sometime in the future. There’s veritably the will to do so since Russia is eager to play a greater role in the global energy industry while Pakistan urgently needs imported energy.
While skeptics might scoff that these last two projects might simply be “political fantasy” or whatnot, there’s likely a lot of truth to them as evidenced by the latest report that was published by Pakistan’s Express Tribune on Thursday. Citing unnamed sources, this reputable outlet wrote that Pakistan is presently in talks with Russia over importing LNG from the energy-rich Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic. They even reported that Russia might consider a swap proposal with its regional energy partners in order to reduce the costs to its Pakistani partners if any such deal ultimately comes to pass.
As could be expected, the US is very upset that its former client state has broken free from the post-colonial neo-imperial shackles that America placed upon it by flexing its strategic autonomy in such a pragmatic way. That’s why it was also just reported that Chairperson of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Robert Menendez and six other congressmen condemned Prime Minister Khan’s trip to Moscow and subsequent deals with Russia in a letter addressed to the Pakistani Ambassador on 16 March. This isn’t a surprise since the US is enraged that Pakistan is no longer its proxy.
By contrast, President Putin had nothing but praise for Pakistan in a congratulatory note that he sent on the occasion of Pakistan Day. The Russian Embassy in Islamabad wrote that “President of Russia Vladimir Putin congratulated President of Pakistan Arif Alvi and Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan on a national holiday – Pakistan Day. Friendly state of Russian-Pakistani relations, productive bilateral cooperation, partners’ interaction of our countries in Afghan settlement and in combatting terrorism are particularly noted in the message.” Russia sincerely appreciates the recent progress in their relations.
The energy dimension remains among the most strategic aspects of their ties but observers also shouldn’t ignore the importance of their diplomatic and humanitarian coordination in Afghanistan, anti-terrorist cooperation, and the potential for directly connecting their economies upon the successful completion of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway or even through the already established North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) via Iran and Azerbaijan. Their energy ties, however, can lead to an immediate improvement in Pakistan’s socio-economic situation.
That’s why more attention should be paid to the multiple projects that they’re pursuing, whether it’s the PSGP, IPI, the Kazakhstan-Pakistan pipeline, or the Yamal LNG Project. Russia has the capability to resolve Pakistan’s energy crisis and thus unleash its newfound partner’s vast economic potential. That could in turn further stabilize South Asia by lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty with time in accordance with its government’s ambitious vision. It’s therefore partially for this reason why Pakistan proudly practices a policy of principled neutrality vis-à-vis Russia and is expected to continue doing so.