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Ukraine War and Energy Problem of Pakistan

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Russia-Ukraine War has given rise to transformations in the relations and cooperations established by many actors, especially Moscow. Different relation dynamics processes have emerged in terms of partnerships in the energy sector. Russia, which has turned to the Asia market because of sanctions, has shaped its relations with Pakistan in this way as well. The visit of a delegation led by the Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik to Russia on 28 November 2022 for oil agreement negotiations is an example of this situation.[1]

As might be predicted, Pakistan is also feeling the effects of war like many countries. It is possible to say that rising oil prices were also effective in negotiating an oil agreement. In fact, the Islamabad administration, which has problems with the energy supply, wants to purchase oil cheaply. It can be said that the agreement with Russia serves the purpose of saving dollars and overcoming rising oil prices.

As it is known, while many countries, because of war, participated in the sanctions against Russia; some actors chose to act cautiously within the scope of the balance policy. Pakistan is also one of the countries that try to protect the balance between West Russia and West China in this atmosphere. Its abstention from the voting submitted to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to condemn Russia’s attacks in Ukraine. As a matter of fact, it is known that in the first months of the war, then-Prime Minister Imran Khan pointed out that the country’s stance in the war would be neutral. In this context, Pakistan neither criticized Russia’s stance nor supported Ukraine.

Geopolitical conditions require Pakistan to maintain ties with Russia and China. On the other hand, Islamabad wants to keep its relations with the United States (US) and European Union (EU) countries in balance. In this situation, it is possible to say that both economic and political factors are effective.

Undoubtedly, Russia-Ukraine War affected global supply chains; thus, there has been an increase in liquefied natural gas (LNG) rates. The turn of LNG companies to European markets has led to the disruption of contracts with Pakistan and withdrawals. This has created a disadvantage for Pakistan. The energy issue has become much more costly for Islamabad, whose fossil fuel (oil, LNG, coal) imports from Ukraine have come to a standstill and had to buy more expensive LNG. Normally, this situation will reflect economically on the people of Pakistan.[2]

Pakistan, which tries to sustain a neutral stance in the war; partly, as mentioned above, the West tries to maintain a balance by trying to maintain its relations with China, Russia, and the US. It can be said that the economic conditions of the country necessitate this. Relations with Russia can also be considered in this context. In addition, due to the sanctions, the Moscow administration has initiated to give more weight to the Asian market. Hence, it is normal for Russia to develop its relations with Pakistan. As a matter of fact, on September 16, 2022, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who came together at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Leaders’ Summit held in Samarkand, the ancient city of Uzbekistan, discussed issues that will improve bilateral relations. The following statement made by the Islamabad Ministry Office after the meeting points out that cooperation dynamics will develop on the Russia-Pakistan line:[3]

“Sharif reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to work closely with Russia to further expand and strengthen bilateral cooperation in all areas of mutual benefit, including food security, trade, investment, energy, defence and security.”

In this context, a call was made from Pakistan to Gazprom to accelerate the construction of the North-South Natural Gas Pipeline. The project, which is planned to be launched in 2020, has been affected by Western sanctions against Russia and has not made any significant progress. However, it is known that Russia promised to invest 14 billion dollars in the Offshore Natural Gas Pipeline Project, North-South Pipeline Project, and underground natural gas storage facilities in Pakistan in 2019. An offshore connection between the Offshore Pipeline and the Pakistan Stream Natural Gas Pipeline is also considered. It is also planned that the natural gas pipeline will be linked to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI).[4]

Pakistan takes care to carry out a multi-vector-directional and multi-dimensional foreign policy based on strengthening its ties with Russia, protecting its relations with China, and avoiding problems with the US. Of course, this requires a tough balance policy. The steps of the Sheriff’s administration are also shaped within the framework of this balanced approach.

On the other hand, it is seen that Pakistan is trying to augment its cooperation with the Gulf countries to solve its energy problems. While aiming to attract Gulf investment to the country, studies are implemented to take a step in the energy sector. Pakistani Minister of Planning, Development and Private Initiatives, Ahsan Iqbal, stated that Pakistan wishes to develop economic cooperation with Saudi Arabia in the style of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).[5] This can be described as another pillar of multi-faceted foreign policy. However, in the energy dimension of the issue, the main actor that Islamabad wants to improve its bilateral relations with Moscow. After the SCO Samarkand Summit, it has been understood that energy cooperation on the Moscow-Islamabad line will increase. The visit of Pakistani Oil Minister Malik to Moscow reflects the efforts in this direction.

At this point it should be specified that; it is noted in the statement made by the US Department of State that this visit by the Pakistani authorities would not pose any problems. Therefore, it can be said that the US does not have a special objection to Pakistan’s import of crude oil from Russia.[6] This indicates that Washington wants to make its relations with Islamabad sustainable.

Consequently, Pakistan, which acts with versatile foreign policy understanding considering balances between power centres, feels the need to develop and deepen its relationship with Russia on energy. This need was revealed at the SCO Samarkand Summit and was seen once again on Malik’s visit to Moscow. However, there was no serious criticism from the US for Pakistan’s development of its relations with Russia in the energy dimension. This, on the one hand, reveals the importance of Islamabad to Washington; on the other hand, it reveals that Pakistan’s multi-faceted foreign policy approach is respected by other actors.


[1] “Pakistani Delegation to Leave for Russia on Monday for Oil Deal Talks”, Dunya News, https://dunyanews.tv/en/Business/676844-Pakistani-delegation-to-leave-for-Russia-on-Monday-for-oil-deal-talks, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2022).

[2] “Ukraine-Russia War Implications for Pakistan”, Tribune, https://tribune.com.pk/story/2364775/ukraine-russia-war-implications-for-pakistan, (Date of Accession. 29.11.2022).

[3] “Pipeline Gas Suppplies to Pakistan are Possible: Russia’s Putin”, English Al Arabiya, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2022/09/15/Pipeline-gas-supplies-to-Pakistan-are-possible-Russia-s-Putin, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).

[4] “Russia Reaffirms Commitment Develop Pakistan’s gas Sector”, Warsaw Institute, https://warsawinstitute.org/russia-reaffirms-commitment-develop-pakistans-gas-sector/, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).

[5] “Pakistan Seeks CPEC Style Economic Ties With Saudi Arabia”, The News, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/1012147-pakistan-seeks-cpec-style-economic-ties-with-saudi-arabia, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).

[6] “No Objection to Russian Oil Import by Pakistan US”, The News, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/1015266-no-objection-to-russian-oil-import-by-pakistan-us, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).

Şeyma KIZILAY
Şeyma KIZILAY, 2016 yılında Erciyes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2019 yılında Kırşehir Ahi Evran Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası İlişkilerde Ulus İnşası Bağlamında Irak Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora eğitimine Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda devam eden Kızılay, tez aşamasındadır. Başlıca çalışma alanları; güvenlik, terörizm, Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Kızılay, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede Arapça bilmektedir.