Open Deal with Iran, Secret Talks with the West

25 February 2013 | 21:54 Code : 1913271 Interview General category
An interview with Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, Iran’s former ambassador to Pakistan
Open Deal with Iran, Secret Talks with the West


The issue of Iran's pipeline to Pakistan has been discussed since years ago. What are the reasons which prevent its execution? 

Basically, the issue of transferring clean energy from Iran to the Peninsula has been proposed since more than a decade ago. In the past, the idea was that gas would be transferred from Iran to the Peninsula which has a market with more than one billion consumers. The gas is to be transferred from Iran to Pakistan and from Pakistan to India. This project has changed during recent years. At that time, this pipeline was named the Peace pipeline. But what is proposed today is different from that. Today the issue is the transfer of gas to Pakistan, about which high-ranking officials from the Iranian Oil Ministry have traveled to Pakistan to negotiate. Apparently, this project is passing through its final stages of negotiations. This project has its proponents and opponents. There are experts who consider this project beneficial both politically and economically. But the Peace pipeline project which would have transferred Iran's gas to Pakistan and India had many political and economic reasons.

Is this project a limited version of that Peace pipeline?

This project should be a new one, because it has different political and economic justifications. Nevertheless, we have made many deals with Pakistan, which has a population of 175 million and about 1000 kilometers of common borders with us, and bilateral relations in many areas including the economic field are improving. This project can be a good opportunity provided that economic justifications are aligned with political developments. What prevented the progress of the Peace pipeline in the past was the dispute between India and Pakistan, while this project could have other political and economic justifications. 

It seems that the transfer of Iran's gas to Pakistan was seriously proposed after Mr. Velayati's trip to this country. Are the circumstances, in your opinion, provided for the success and implementation of this project?

Certainly Mr. Velayati's visit was very significant. But the issue of the transfer of Iran's gas to Pakistan has always been negotiated in all visits in the past few years. Even during the past three months there was a report that Pakistan's President was supposed to come to Tehran and one of the main issues of discussion was the transfer of gas. This report was repeated last week. As I mentioned before, this project has its opponents and supporters. Some believe that any cooperation between the two neighbors is helpful and Iran, as the oil and gas producer, and Pakistan, as the consumer, can have serious cooperation. Therefore, politically, any cooperation between the neighbors is helpful. Of course, the experts should give their analysis on its economic aspects. 

Therefore, is this project ready to be executed now?

The point that must be considered is that at the present time both Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran are on the verge of holding elections. Furthermore, Iran's transfer of gas to Pakistan depends on several side-issues, the most important of which is the security issue. It must be seen what ideas have been contemplated in these areas, for no information has yet been published in the media. Of course, I am not in a position to determine the relation between political issues and economic ones and decide which one has more value. But what is clear is that these issues must be considered. Otherwise, the same thing that happened for the Peace pipeline during the past years might happen for this project.

Have the sanctions which have been imposed on Iran's oil and gas sector motivated Iran, in your opinion, to insist on the execution of this project?

There are different opinions about this issue. Some believe that the problems and approaches which Iran is faced with right now in its foreign policy are not necessarily caused by the sanctions. Iran has a thousand kilometers of common borders with Pakistan. In the past, there was much give-and-take between these two countries. Iran and Pakistan have helped each other under difficult conditions. This means that if sanctions are imposed in this region, it is not necessarily enforceable as it is set. Thus, sanctions cannot determine everything. Besides, the sanctions are not permanent and different conditions will be created in the future. The issue of gas transfer is a long-term discussion. Iran's gas resources will be maintained for the next century as well. Hence, it is true that the immediate outcomes of decisions must be considered but more importantly, the long-term results must be paid attention to.

The Pakistani Prime Minister’s energy advisor has stated that Pakistan will sign the agreement on the transfer of Iran's gas to this country only if Iran gives a 10% deduction on the sale of gas to Pakistan. Do you think that Iran's situation at the present time has led to Pakistan taking advantage of this opportunity and receiving concessions?

The officials in Iran must consider the point that they should make such decisions based on their long-term interests. Of course, the immediate outcome of such decisions is also important. In the past, some of the decision-makers in Pakistan had an instrumental outlook on the transfer of energy from Iran to Pakistan, meaning that they looked at the West and considered this project as an instrument to receive concessions from the West. But if we assume that the Pakistanis right now have a strategic view and this government is in a position to make long-term decisions, the economic issue certainly has its own special rules and regulations. The process of selling energy in international markets has its own regulations. Pakistan is not the only country which is interested in buying Iran's oil and gas. Thus, it is natural that Iran considers its own interests and benefits. The important point here is whether the Pakistani party has a more serious view compared to the past? Or is it still continuing the old approach? It has been seen before that the Pakistani officials have negotiated with Iran and then received concessions from somewhere else.

tags: Pakistan gas iran energy