In a clear sign of shifting global dynamics and the concomitant need for new geo-political alliances in a rapidly changing world, Pakistan’s courting of Russia is on. A recent telecom between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin supports the idea that both states are willing to cooperate in various sectors. The historically terse relationship has recently started to thaw as Pakistan belatedly emerges out of foreign policy stagnancy rooted in the permutations of the Cold War era. In the past, Russia has agreed to build a $ 2 billion dollar North-South gas pipeline that would stretch 1,100 kilometres from Karachi to Lahore. The pipeline will have the capacity to carry 12.4 billion cubic metres of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year and will connect terminals in Karachi with those in Lahore. However, little progress has been made on the project due to policy conflict.
Just like CPEC initiatives, this pipeline can prove a game changer because until now no suitable mechanism existed to distribute gas around the country but once the pipeline is functional, imported gas will be easily transported and provided. The pipeline’s reach and the substantial volume it can carry gives hopes that the pipeline will provide a credible solution to the deepening energy crisis by helping to enhance the generation of electricity to the tune of 3,600 Megawatts, while also serving as a kick-starter for the floundering CNG sector and providing a boon to industries. There are embryonic plans to eventually merge this Russian built pipeline with the LNG pipeline in the western half of Pakistan being built as part of the Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Doing so would give Pakistan an unprecedented fuel network and control over the allocation of its resources, and such a move therefore makes eminent sense. However, the project, set to be completed in three phases, has a long way to go as delays, ballooning costs, security concerns and other unforeseen obstacles have put the project on the back burner.