Pakistan has approved Russia’s request to use the strategic Gwadar Port for its exports, signalling a new alignment in bilateral relations after decades’ of sour ties during the Cold War era. Following Iran and Turkmenistan, Russia has also decided to use the Gwadar Port for trade to have an access to warm waters, a top Pakistani official privy to the development was quoted as saying by Geo News.
“On top of it, Russia also wants to join the USD 46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor to reap the maximum dividends. In addition, Russia aspires to develop strategic defence ties with Pakistan,” the daily said. Pakistan decided to broaden its foreign policy options after its relations with the US deteriorated following secret CIA raid in Abbottabad that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Its relations with the US were soured recently when US lawmakers blocked funds for the sale of eight Lockheed Martin Corporation’s F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Pakistan is eager to improve its ties with Russia to diversify its defence purchase options in the event of any stalemate in ties with Washington, experts say.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is on a two-day visit to Turkmenistan, said that he welcomed the Russia’s interest in becoming part of the CPEC and maintained that Pakistan would welcome participation of any country in the gigantic project. He told journalists that many countries wanted to join CPEC as half of the world would benefit from the project.
China and Pakistan are building the nearly 3,000-km-long economic corridor linking Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with Muslim-majority Xinjiang province to improve connectivity between the two countries. The move would open up a new and cheaper cargo route for transporting oil to China as well as export of Chinese goods to the Middle East and Africa.
Sharif also announced building railways, road and fiber-optic along with Turkmenistan-Pakistan-Afghanistan-India (TAPI) 1,680-kilometer-long gas pipeline to enhance connectivity between South Asia and Central Asia. He said that TAPI would supply 400 billion cubic feet gas to the three member states in which Pakistan’s share would be three hundred billion feet of gas. Sharif said TAPI, which is the largest gas project in the region, would help meet the gas demand in Pakistan.
In the Turkmen capital, Sharif announced on Saturday Pakistan’s decision to join the Ashgabat Agreement and the Lapis Lazuli Corridor. The Ashgabat agreement is a transport agreement between Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and seeks to create an international transport and transit corridor.
The Lapis Lazuli Corridor seeks to foster transit and trade cooperation between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey by reducing barriers facing transit trade.