What can I say!
If new Delhi's suggestion to pass pipeline through populated areas is accepted, terrorists will love the new route because they will kill two birds with one stone; sabotage the pipe line and harm the population living near the pipe line. There is no guarantee that passing the pipeline through densely populated areas will reduce the risk of terrorist attacks. It is not the Multan where it is vulnerable; it is the entire Baluchistan where people line can be sabotaged. Risk of Sabotage in Punjab is much smaller than Sabotage in Baluchistan and Sindh.
In event of a war between Pakistan and India this pipeline may be a target by India itself to blow huge fires in Pakistani populated areas.
Before suggesting new pipeline route the Indians should heed the remarks made by Dr. Condoleezza Rice about the proposed project (pun intended). The Indians know what they are doing. It is not the Indians who should heed Rice's remarks, it is Pakistan that should. The Indians already know that this project will never materialize as US has thrown towel and is not interested in reconciliation of differences between Pakistan and India. At this moment they are more interested in blocking Iran. On one hand US has threatened Pakistan and warned over the project as it will benefit Iranians who are under fire because of their nuclear project and on the other hand, in order to appease Indians, it has offered nuclear power plants as an energy alternative.
Indians on the other hand want to save their face and embarrassment and are proposing a new route which they know will never materialize or accepted by the Pakistanis. It will be a win win situation as they will claim that it is not US pressure which has purged the project instead it is Pakistan that has refused to accept the proposed route.
In my opinion, US should take a gamble. The history suggest that once a country take its path to become a nuclear state it is hard to take a U-turn and economic sanctions do not deter them either. Paksitan and North Korea are key examples. I would not consider Libya as an example because Iran is a different country. Shiities can be more peaceful if they are dealt properly (Iraq is an example). US should adopt a more realistic approach and try to bring peace to middle east crescent (World Bank's classification for this area) by dialogue and building mutual trust among these countries. The transfer of nuclear technology from Pakistan to Iran, Korea and Libya was the result of economic sanctions impossed on Paksitan by US and UN. If anyone believes that Abdul Qadir Khan acted alone in running his network without bringing it into Pakistan government or military's knowledge; he/she is living in a fools paradise.
And finally, I have no comments about Pakistan
's sovereignty. I will do comment on this but some other time. However, I would like to make few points here. If this project ever materializes it may be good for Pakistan
to earn decent foreign exchange to strengthen its economy. The government of Pakistan
must take its nation into confidence. There should be built in safe guards in royalty determination process through out the life cycle of the project under changing exchange rates, oil price futures, general price hikes, and demand pressures.
(I am writing a piece on Pakistan's nuclear sale network controversy and will post it in this weblog within a week or so).DAWN NEWS
31 March 2005 Thursday 20 Safar 1426 New Delhi suggests pipeline routeBy DAWN Correspondent
, March 30: Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has suggested routing the 4.16-billion dollar Iran-India gas pipeline through thickly populated areas of Pakistan
to minimise the risk of a terrorist attack , an Indian news report said on Wednesday. Zee news TV channel quoted Indian petroleum ministry sources as saying the 2600 km pipeline was planned to be completed by 2010. Mr Aiyar has suggested that gas should move along the Makran coast, past Gwadar, through Hub Chowk, into Karachi
and beyond to Umarkot and from there to Munnabao crossing in Rajasthan, according to his ministry officials. They were quoted by Zeenews as saying that an agreement with Tehran
for delivery of Iranian gas at a point on the Indian border is likely to be inked when Mr Aiyar visits the Islamic Republic in June. Iran
would enter into a separate agreement with Islamabad
for the 760-km transit through Pakistan
. Project consultants BHP Billiton had previously suggested that the gas move from Multan
to a point somewhere near Jaisalmer. But Mr Aiyar feels that this should change considering that there is little population along that route, rendering the pipeline vulnerable to terrorist threats. Mr Aiyar is also visiting Islamabad
in second half of May to chalk out transit modalities, including the transit fee to be paid to Pakistan
for using its territory for transmission of gas, the news channel said.