Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pakistan defies US, speeds up pipeline project with Tehran

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012   No comments

With a decision to fast-track the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Iran, Pakistan is underscoring not only the energy needs of its flailing economy but also its growing estrangement from Washington.

The move came despite the objections of the United States and could put Pakistan at risk of violating US sanctions on Tehran aimed at denying Iran hard currency that it needs for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

But as President Asif Ali Zardari said in a rare television interview last week, Pakistan has no choice but to seek greater ties with its neighbors—Iran, China, India and Afghanistan—“because the economies of the West are in trouble and not in a position to help us.”

Zardari’s comments were the clearest enunciation yet of a change in Pakistan’s foreign policy away from the United States as Islamabad plans for 2014, when US-led Nato combat forces are expected to stand down in Afghanistan.

Zardari said Pakistan would not be drawn into new American “theaters of war” in the region—a clear reference to fresh US sanctions against Iran and tensions stemming from Tehran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for oil traffic. Pakistan, he said, would accelerate the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Iran to plug a supply shortfall that in December brought the economy here to a near standstill.


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