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Friday, April 12, 2024  
04 Shawwal 1445  

Russia will sell oil to Pakistan at market-based price: envoy

Danila Ganich says work on gas pipeline could start ‘pretty fast’ depending on conclusion of agreements
Exclusive interview of Danila Ganich | Spot Light with Munizae Jahangir | Aaj News

Russia would sell petroleum products to Pakistan at the market-based price, Russian Ambassador to Pakistan Danila Ganich said on Tuesday as the two countries move closer to signing a deal on the trade.

“It will depend on the quantity of the supplies, on the length of supplies but anyway the price of petroleum products will be market-based because we do not recognise any price caps,” he told Aaj News in an exclusive interview with Munizae Jahangir on her show Spot Light.

He was responding to a query on the energy-rich country’s decision to reduce oil production and its impact on the current deals that have been signed off between Pakistan and Russian companies, including state ones.

The Russian envoy was of the view that the decision was not directly linked as currently, the country was not trading in petroleum products with Pakistan. The cut in production was supposedly linked to the desire of Russia to boost the price worldwide, he added.

When asked about the development so far on the North-South Gas Pipeline, he said the project was high on the agenda of the recent session of the inter-governmental commission that took place in Islamabad just last month.

Pakistan and Russia signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) at the conclusion of the 8th session of the three-day Pakistan-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, and Technical cooperation last month. Both countries agreed to sort out all the entanglements – transportation, insurance, payment, and rolling – for a supply of crude oil by late March.

“I am pretty sure that we can start pretty fast. It depends on the conclusion of some commercial agreements. As far as I understand the interested companies are in direct contact. They are working out. They are working on these commercial papers,” Ganich said and explained that some of them are state-owned and some of them are private and they are in direct touch.

Pakistan’s junior petroleum minister Musadiq Malik, who took a trip to Kremlin in November 2022 to get cheap Russian oil, said that the country has started talks with private companies, part of their delegation, for LNG that were organised by Moscow.

“The Russian government is setting up new factories for the production of LNG and they have invited Pakistan to begin talks on long-term contracts for 2025 and 2026,” Malik said after coming back home.

Ganich was posted as ambassador to Pakistan in 2019, however, he has been posted in the country in the past in different capacities.

He went on to add that both countries had opportunities in every field for inter-state economic cooperation.

To a query, if Pakistan had to buy oil at a high price against the backdrop of price, the envoy said that it depended on the outcome of negotiations between the two countries. When the host pressed, he said Islamabad might have some “olive branch” but only if it was beneficial for the exporter.

“We are ready to participate in any project which is feasible and beneficial for us,” he said and explained that the main hurdle on the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline faced by the participants was US sanctions. “As for the Trans Afghan pipeline, we also need to be absolutely clear about what parameters are, how security will be in place.”

He was blunt in his reply to a question that whether Russia fears that there would be eyebrows lifted in the US capital, hampering Pakistan-Russia ties. “We have decided to confront the US directly. We do not fear anyone, including the US. But we have to understand the US is a superpower and it has influence. It’s true it is hampering our ties. But it is up to us to overcome that.”

The envoy was cautious in his response when asked if Pakistan decides to sell arms to Ukraine amid the ongoing war. Russia was closely monitoring the situation, he said and used a saying that “we will we will see” as so far it has not happened. He expressed that it does not happen.

Moscow also exports wheat to Islamabad. Last year, it shipped more than 7,000 tons of wheat to the South Asian country.

“I hope so,” he said in a query if Pakistan trades with Russia in rubles and claimed that the US has weaponized the dollar to maintain its “hegemony”. He could not guarantee that Islamabad could benefit from it, however, he stressed the need for having respect as they were not a “doormat”.

Russia has enjoyed historical ties with India and experts were wary of the country’s increased ties with Pakistan in the recent past in the changing geo-political situation.

The envoy described his country’s dealings as “multitask” while having good relations with countries who are archrivals—Pakistan and India. “If we have a warm and close relationship with India that does not mean we cannot have one with Pakistan. We consider Pakistan our friend and partner.”

He lauded the country’s contribution to fighting against terrorism.

‘Taliban come into power is a revolution’

He shared that his country was in “constant touch” the Afghan Taliban, hinting that the country could be invited to future summits.

“We are working with the Taliban. We are closely engaged with our dear friend Pakistan. I don’t see any problem. We look eye to eye to the Afghan issue.”

He rebuffed any reports that Russia was leaving the country under the rule of the interim government, highlighting their special representative in the country.

According to Ganich, the cause of the Afghanistan crisis was the holding of $7 billion worth of frozen funds of the Afghan Central Bank, the fear of businessmen, and the lack of proper infrastructure apparently left by the US.

“We definitely stand for equality and rights. Gender equality is no less important to Russia than it is important to the US or some European countries,” he added and stressed the need for working with the interim government.

“That was a revolution. The Taliban coming to power is a revolution. They are a political reality,” he said when the host asked how Russia would get the Taliban to be reasonable.

The past campaigns taught that the Pakthuns and Afghans do not respond to the language of threats, he added, and called for engaging them. The envoy further called for helping Afghanistan to increase its counter-terrorism policies to eradicate threats.

“I would say that I don’t have any concrete facts at hand, but I see the motives, when I see the motives I can presume there may be some kind of US support because history shows when it suits them the American may not pay much attention to what kind of clientele they have,” he said while giving his reply on claims by a Russian leader that America was funding terrorist groups.

“I suppose this is mostly by intelligence, as our American partners say ‘highly likely’. Probably we have evidence but we cannot make it public because we would not want to compromise,” Ganich said.

Russia was waiting for a negotiating settlement, he said, and accused the West of seeking Kremlin’s defeat on the battlefield. He was of the view that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s expansion was an “existential threat” to the country.

‘US told Imran Khan to wind up Russia trip’

The ouster of Imran Khan, from the office of prime minister, in April last also came into discussion.

Former prime minister Imran’s much debated trip to Russia in February last year. Imran was criticized for taking a trip at a time when Ukraine was being attacked by Kremlin, a claim he has rejected by saying he was “unaware” of it.

“I think we cannot look at it. Definitely when you have disappointment on part of the superpower, which the US clearly is, so you got problems. So, definitely when they told Imran Khan to ‘wind up’ his visit to Russia and he refused and acted like a man. I think he did not humiliate himself, by giving in to a dictate. I think he irritated the White House definitely.”

He added that it was a “factor”, not a “cause”.

Ganich added that Imran paid the price for paying a visit to Russia. He said the former premier was not aware of the Ukraine war and the timing was a coincidence.

“This is not black and white. This is a factor contributing to the ouster. There were some problems inside the country and in Parliament. There were a number of factors behind this internal development,” he said and added that the dissatisfaction of the US creates problems.

“If he [Imran] had not had serious internal domestic problems he would have stayed as the head of government,” he added.

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