Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another Pipeline Deal: Signs of the emerging pattern of alliances in Eurasia?

Syed Fazl-e-Haider, author of a book on the development of Baluchistan, has recently published an announcement in Asia Times Online that Iran and Pakistan have signed a final agreement for the construction of a gas pipeline that would serve Pakistan and conceivably might be extended into India. There have been financial difficulties, however, as Pakistan has so far not been able to arrange the cash, the Americans being no help as they are against the deal.  China has a great interest in the agreement and others with Pakistan, and may come to the rescue.  The US has been opposed to much of what the Iranians have tried to do since Khomeini came to power in 1979.

The plan is for Iran to provide 750 million cu ft of gas per day through this pipe for the next 25 years. This is a big for Pakistan, which is 3,000 megawatts short of electric power. Contracts like this seem to me worth a close watch as they are the material and technological links through which goods are transported ever more cheaply and in larger amounts faster from localities of production to consuming communities, the long term effect being to link peoples ever closer together. And their expense helps link political and military interests. These are the physical instruments of world shrinkage and international alliances. That such agreements are being worked out in the face of American opposition is not especially new but it indicates the actual realities of our world -- namely, that local interests trump those of the hegemon whenever possible.

There is more in the offing, according to Fazl-e-Haider: China wants to build a pipeline from Iran to China through Pakistan. That would be a huge project: it would mean taking the pipeline through the Northern Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan where the Khunjerab Pass is over 15,000 feet through one of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Such is China's interest in energy. And such is China's belief that Pakistan is over the long term "safe" territory, safe politically.  China seems to be viewing Pakistan and Iran as long term partners worth establishing enduring ties with.

Deals like this suggest where the world is trending, worth watching with some care.