Outreach to Russia.

A RUSSIAN delegation has recently visited Islamabad to explore the possibility of the 'seamless' flow of energy from Russia to Pakistan. It is not yet clear if energy supplies would be provided at a discounted rate. Nor is it decided how and in which currencies the payments would be settled. Apparently, it is just the beginning of the process and details are being worked out. Yet, this should be seen as a welcome development as it is in keeping with Pakistan's policy of engaging with all major powers based on our national interests. However, it would be premature to celebrate because energy supplies are still months away, and that too if the details are negotiated successfully.

Russia is a resource-rich country but the West's stringent sanctions have obliged it to turn to Asian states to sell its energy surpluses. Reports indicate that Moscow offered heavy discounts on oil sales to India, which grabbed the opportunity. China, too, availed of this lucrative offer and boosted its oil (and LNG) imports from Russia.

Naturally, the US and Europe, which are trying to build pressure on the Russian leadership for invading Ukraine, are upset as their carton of unprecedented sanctions against Russia is being punctured. The US has expressed concern over high-seas oil transfers to avoid sanctions. However, given its larger strategic objectives in Asia, which require India to be a partner of choice, the US has not adopted any measure to restrict Russian energy exports to India or other countries in Asia. This flexibility has worked for India, China and other Asian countries, including Pakistan, which is exploring the option of getting Russian oil now and LNG later.

Apart from the economics of it, there are strategic and political aspects of the Ukraine crisis that merit a closer look. Both India and China had taken a guarded position on Russian aggression against Ukraine. Pakistan, too, abstained on the UN resolution that condemned the aggression. Two views prevail in Pakistan. Some are convinced that Moscow was provoked by the West's attempts to bring Nato to Russia's borders. Others feel that Russia's invasion and occupation of a part of Ukrainian territory was a violation of the territorial integrity of a smaller neighbour. While Pakistan has already taken the position of abstaining on the UN resolution, it would be important to watch out for any move that could cause the Russian military act set a precedent for larger countries to invade smaller...

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