This deal involved moving as much gas as Pakistan needs from Iran's Asalouyeh into Pakistan's Gwadar and then on to Nawabshah for further transit if required. At the same time, China has been in long-running discussions with Pakistan over the specific projects that Beijing wanted to place in Pakistan as part of its 'One Belt, One Road' (OBOR) programme. All the while, the U.S. has been trying to stymie any such arrangement but OilPrice.com understands that the Iran-China-Pakistan deal is now back on, and with a vengeance.
China's covert strategic deals are virtually always buried in interminably long anodyne statements that belie the true laser-focused intentions of Beijing and this time is no different. Joint statements just over a week ago from both Pakistan and China sides laid out four projects that are part of a 'broader co-operation' between China and Pakistan. They all sound relatively run-of-the-mill affairs, although still major undertakings, and are: the upgrading of the Pakistan Refinery Karachi, the building out of a coal to liquid engineering plant based on Thar coal at Thar Sindh, the utilisation of Thar Block VI for coal gasification and fertiliser projects, and the finalisation of the feasibility study on South-North Gas Pipeline Project that traverses Pakistan.
The fact that they are much more significant to the global geopolitical balance was evidenced by the U.S.'s furious warnings to Pakistan, based on the fact that all of these projects are in reality a key part of Beijing's planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which, in turn, is a cornerstone of the OBOR initiative. Even as it was, U.S. South Asia diplomat, Alice Wells, warned that CPEC – which, vitally, includes heavy financing from Beijing and, therefore, a massive debt obligation to China by the host country over time - will only profit Beijing. As it stands, the cost of just the first round of CPEC projects has risen from an initial costing of US$48 billion to at least US$62 billion right now. "It's clear, or it needs to be clear, that CPEC is not about aid," said Wells. "[The CPEC] corridor is going to take a growing toll on the Pakistan economy, especially when the bulk of payments start to come due in the next four to six years," she added. "Even if loan payments are deferred, they are going to continue to hang over Pakistan's economic development potential, hamstringing Prime Minister [Imran] Khan's reform agenda," she underlined.