Brussels, July 2 (NNN): The United States defence officials here are engaged in encouraging their European allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to effectively consider Pakistan’s requests for purchase of defence equipment from European countries.
The move comes ahead of President Pervez Musharraf’s upcoming visit to two European sates.
Sources said Pakistan has made several formal requests for purchase of defence equipment including used F-16 fighter planes from different European countries. After completing all formalities involved in declaring Pakistan a Major Non-Nato Ally, the US has officially decided to provide help in strengthening, at all possible venues, the defence and security of the country playing a vital role in international war against terror.
Prior to the upcoming US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group meeting expected to be held in September this year in Islamabad, the US authorities are working assiduously to get congressional approval for refurbishing the F-16 fleet provided to Pakistan including its up-gradation. The policy makers at the Pentagon have already agreed to raise the strength of Pakistan’s F-16s to its original level of 40 and help upgrade them, but it wouldn’t be possible before a congressional approval.
The issue of strengthening Pakistan’s security remained a subject of informal consultations in the recent EU-US summit in Ireland, Nato summit in Turkey and G-8 summit in the USA and leaders from both sides of the Atlantic agreed that Pakistan’s security was vital for the ongoing war against terror.
Sources, however said the US authorities have not initiated as yet the process of seeking a congressional approval on the Pakistani request to provide Awacs as this issue will once again be discussed in the next Defence Consultative Group (DCG) meeting.
There is a wide difference of opinion in senior US defence official on the Pakistani request, which was made after Indian acquisition of Phalcon air borne system from Israel. Pakistan pleads that the Awacs is direly needed by the country in the changed security environment in South Asia.
Sources also said the decision on Pakistan’s request to acquire used F-16 fighter planes will be taken shortly. Belgium can only sell the used F-16 fighters to Pakistan if a clearance is given by the US administration. They indicated that the US administration was willing to give such a clearance.
Defence experts in the West, however, are still busy in analysing the outcome of the Wana operation launched by the Pakistani security forces, the source said.
Some European countries are also planning to schedule of military-to-military exercises and training activities with Pakistan, the sources said. Such plans would provide Pakistan avenues for deepening its existing military relations with European countries, besides offering new opportunities for strengthening it defence capability with the changing security environments in the region, they added.