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India not surprised by US making Pak ally
Josy Joseph in New Delhi | March 19, 2004 23:15 IST
India is maintaining a baffling silence over the American decision to declare Pakistan a major non-NATO ally (MNNA), even as officials cite history and geopolitical context to justify the US action.
Indian officials in the Ministry of External Affairs, defence ministry and intelligence agencies agree the decision would lead to Pakistan piling up a new generation of US weapons that could in turn force India to match it.
Some officials also believe that the announcement could lead to further backlash against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf from hardliners.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Thursday announced the US decision to declare Pakistan a Major Non-NATO Ally, a position given to less than a dozen countries around the world.
A MEA official said the US decision was understandable. "Through history Pakistan has always been in the forefront of US efforts in the region, whether it was the security treaties at the height of Cold War or during its Afghan operations of 1980s against the erstwhile Soviet Union or the post-9/11 offensive in Afghanistan," he said.
"Pakistan has always toed the US line. The announcement is not a great jump in US-Pak relations," he added.
Another official said the new designation would facilitate the renewed operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Elite US troops that hunted down Saddam Hussein are set to join Pakistan troops in the military operations in Federally Administered Tribal Areas close to the Afghan border.
While the US decision would 'bolster' Musharraf's position within Pakistan, it could also create further backlash from the fundamentalist forces, says the official.
According to sources in the defence ministry Pakistan might immediately receive P3C Orion long-range reconnaissance aircraft, Harpoon missiles, helicopters and radar systems. They also admit that it may not be long before Pakistan receives F-16 fighter jets that it has been demanding for almost a decade.
The officer hinted that a weak Pakistan is a better dialogue partner than a belligerent one, with active military supplies and strong US backing.