Notwithstanding India's protests, the Obama administration is readying itself to provide Pakistan with even more massive doses of military largesse, as senior United States officials acknowledged that Pakistan's request for additional security assistance would be a top priority on the agenda of the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue that begins on Wednesday.
The Strategic Dialogue between Washington and Islamabad will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi, but Pakistan's military chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is expected to call the shots.
Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Frank Ruggiero said, "Secretary Clinton in March actually made some comments on the importance of resource planning on a multi-year basis in terms of our security assistance, which is military assistance to Pakistan."
He said, "Since that time, we have done a lot of work on both sides, especially on how to develop a multi-year framework to meet our efforts and needs in the security assistance area."
In this regard, Ruggiero told journalists in a teleconference that "a lot of work has been done by the Department of Defence as well as the Pakistani military in terms of what a multi-year framework of assistance would look like. We specifically worked with the Pakistanis over the summer to identify what would be the types of military equipment and so on."
While acknowledging that this "would be a topic of discussion at the Strategic Dialogue," he refused to be specific, saying, "I would defer any announcements or any discussions beyond that for the next couple of days."
The New York Times reported on Monday that the Obama administration would try to mend its relationship with Pakistan by introducing some sweeteners at the table including "a multi-year security pact with Pakistan, complete with more reliable military aid -- something the Pakistani military has long sought to complement the five-year, $7.5 billion package of non-military aid approved by the Congress last year" under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation.
It said that the new security pace would have three parts -- the sale of American military equipment for Pakistan, a programme to allow Pakistani military officers to study at American war colleges and counterinsurgency assistance to Pakistani troops.
Defence Minister A K Antony, during his meeting in September with his counterpart Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other top Pentagon officials, including Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Clinton and National Security Adviser Retired General Jim Jones (who has since resigned), strongly brought up New Delhi's concerns over the continuing massive military aid to Pakistan in his discussions.
He stressed to them that past history had always showed that such arms and equipment provided to Pakistan by the US had always been diverted and used against India.
Before his meeting with Gates, Clinton and Jones, Antony told reporters he would bring this issue up with his US interlocutors because "we feel that even though the United States is giving arms to Pakistan to fight terrorism, our practical experience is that it is always being misused. They are diverting a portion against India."
Ruggiero, when asked if Pakistan's request for predator drone technology is also something the administration is considering providing Islamabad, said, "At this point that may very well be a topic for conversation at the Strategic Dialogue. I don't believe it's something that the United States is planning to raise at the Strategic Dialogue, but if that is raised, we obviously would discuss it."
On the issue of Pakistan's perennial request that it too be afforded a civilian nuclear deal similar to the one the US reached with India, Ruggiero said that was not on the cards.
"We are not in discussion of a negotiation of a civil nuclear agreement with Pakistan," he said.