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IS THIS THE TIME TO ARM PAKISTAN?
Nikhil Khanna
Washington, DC
November 24, 2004

The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced Wednesday, November 17 a proposal to sell weapons worth $1.2b to Pakistan, including eight P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft valued at up to $970 million, 2,000 TOW-2A missiles and 14 TOW-2A Fly-to-Buy missiles valued at $82 million. India warned on Friday that new American arms sales to Pakistan could harm improving New Delhi-Washington ties as well as a promising dialogue between the two South Asian nuclear rivals.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the US by helping improve the security of a friendly nation that continues to be a key ally in the global war on terrorism," the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which looks after foreign arms sales, said in a press statement in Washington Wednesday.

I fail to understand how "rewarding" Pakistan [a failed nuclear state that still has factions within its government and intelligence that are sympathetic to al-Qaida and various Islamic fundamental insurgent groups] with advanced weaponry, contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the United States. Sure, one would agree that the Pakistan government has captured many al-Qaida suspects and turned them over to the United States (although this also signifies an environment that has ‘encouraged’ and provided safe haven to terrorists). Sympathetic and religious elements within Pakistan's intelligence service (ISI) and army continue to provide vital infrastructure support to terrorist groups, often with the tacit backing of Islamabad! As evidence of Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation has become clear in recent months, it is an unacceptable trade-off. A country that arrests terrorists one day and sells nuclear technology in the black market to rogue nations the next is not contributing to greater U.S. and global security!

Furthermore, advanced weaponry of this nature is hardly to be used in the crackdown of salwar-kameez clad militants in the tribal regions bordering the Pak-Afghan border. This would be akin to the use of heavy armor against insurgents in dense jungles! Shortly after the crackdown by US forces in and around the Pak-Afghan border, Pakistan’s ISI quietly reshuffled and is now supporting jihadi groups in Bangladesh, from where they have been able to regroup and attack targets in North Eastern India. By re-arming Pakistan at this stage with sophisticated weaponry, the US stands the risk of destabilizing the South Asia region, while also creating an environment that poses great risk to US forces operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Parts of Wana, Waziristan as well as the Pakhtun areas are seeing increasing levels of insurgency. Karachi has become another hotbed of terrorist activities. Lastly, increased military arsenal will give Pakistan’s fourth military dictator General Musharraf little incentive to give up his military uniform by the December 31, 2004 deadline and carve out a democratic system for his country.

Leading US Congressman Frank Pallone has urged President George W. Bush to block the proposed arms sale to Pakistan, saying it would "contribute to increased security concerns" throughout South Asia, particularly India. In his letter, Pallone said: "I urge you to re-examine the interests and priorities of the US and to take a strong position against selling arms to Pakistan both now and in the future." Pallone went on to state, "We all agree that Pakistan has been an ally in the global war on terror, however, Pakistan has not taken steps to end terrorism in its own backyard and foreign military assistance to Pakistan has oftentimes been used against India."

In a comprehensive report that appeared in Defense News, November 22, 2004, "US Revises Threat Scenarios", top military officials and defense strategists outlined the Pentagon's war plans and scenarios to better prepare the United States against conventional military threats as well as irregular, catastrophic and disruptive threats. The report states, "one such scenario being considered, according to sources familiar with these efforts, is the challenge of dealing with a failed nuclear state - possibly Iran in the future, or Pakistan in the near term or even North Korea and Russia at some point." A senior US military commander in the Pak/Afghan region recently warned that Pakistani extremists posed a long-term threat to American security that any group in the world.

Such a decision by the Bush administration is bound to restart an arms race in South Asia and disrupt the tenuous peace process that India and Pakistan have recently initiated. Both countries are currently in the early stages of a wide-ranging peace process to try to resolve their disagreements. It is rather ironic that such an announcement comes at a time when President Bush and Dr Rice are committed to a "stronger" relationship with India during their 2nd term. Foreign Secretary of India, Shyam Saran was in Washington and met with Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, among others. Saran noted that during President George W. Bush's first term of office US-India relations improved significantly. "So in this context, the supply of sophisticated weaponry to Pakistan will inevitably impact on the positive sentiments and goodwill that has come to characterize US-India relations," he said.



Posted by Nikhil Khanna @ 11:36 AM

 

 
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Thank you, Nik Khanna & Jango Unwalla

 
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