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The Rediff Special/Josy Joseph

Major ally for US = Major worry for India

March 27, 2004

India is disappointed at Pakistan being designated a 'major non-NATO ally' of the United States last week, not just because Secretary of State Colin Powell sprang an unpleasant surprise, but also because of the implications of the move, which are only slowly becoming clear.

Indian officials fear the floodgates will open for a massive flow of American military wares to Pakistan. "The real, immediate implication is in the supply of military wares," a senior external affairs ministry official said.

Similar sentiments are being expressed by officials across the spectrum as they strive to gather information that will help them understand what Powell's announcement means in real terms.

From official sources, available documents and credible reports, it seems the Pakistan military is set to receive a massive dose of arms. The F-16s are delayed, "but even those look possible now," the official said.

The sceptics argue that the latest US move is the continuation of a cycle in US-Pakistan relations that has had grave impact on South Asia.

In the 1950s US officials kept assuring India that their military assistance to Pakistan was targeted at Russia and China. By 1965, Pakistan had received more than $3 billion worth of US military supplies. Those arms were eventually used against India.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, the US opened lines of military supplies to the rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. "Once their business was finished in Afghanistan, many of the jihadis and their weapons landed up in Kashmir," a senior intelligence officer pointed out.

There are many who believe that some of the weapons recovered in the wake of the 1993 Mumbai blasts, including the AK-56 recovered from film star Sanjay Dutt, also came from the Afghan war.

"Pakistan with a vast amount of new generation weapons could be a more difficult dialogue partner than today," the intelligence officer argued. But the US is already processing many of Islamabad's military demands that have been pending for several years.

Pakistan had not received major military supplies since the Pressler Amendment was enforced in 1990, until September 11, 2001. "From then till now they have been receiving supplies, but only items specific to their counter-terrorism operations," a senior army officer said.

But even that scenario could change because of the easier access to US military supplies that MNNA status gives Pakistan. A major non-NATO ally is eligible for priority delivery of excess defence articles. What's more, it is eligible for the purchase of depleted uranium ammunition and has special privilege in bidding for certain US government contracts.

The US has already allocated $300 million for the coming fiscal year for 'foreign military financing', "most of which will end up as US systems in Pakistan," a diplomatic source argued. Over the next five years, a total of $3 billion worth of American assistance will reach Pakistan, half of which is believed to be for 'foreign military financing', a fund exclusively meant to buy arms from the US.

Already, under a $73 million security assistance package in the wake of September 11, Pakistan is receiving new helicopters, surveillance aircraft, some 1,000 armoured personnel carriers and modern radio sets, besides getting some airfields upgraded.

In August 2003, the US officially offered six C-130 Hercules transport aircraft using a $75 million 'foreign military financing' grant. According to some Pakistani officials, the C-130 has in the past been improvised to deliver bombs.

According to the Indian officials, Pakistan will also receive AN/TPS-77 air surveillance radars worth $100 million and Aerostat radar systems for monitoring ground traffic and low-flying aircraft worth about $155 million.

Besides, Pakistan has placed a demand for 80 attack helicopters. Some of these helicopters have already been inducted into operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of the northwest frontier, they believe.

Among other equipment that Pakistan is seeking from the US are Predators, the unmanned aerial aircraft used by the Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq, and airborne early warning systems.

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