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US arms for Pakistan spell trouble for India

US arms for Pakistan spell trouble for India

Author: Josy Joseph
Publication: The Times of India
Date: October 14, 2004
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-883884,curpg-1.cms

In its eagerness to arm its favourite ally in on war on terror, the US is well on its way to triggering an arms race in South Asia.

As American military assistance turns into a deluge, Pakistan is more than making up for the years of nuclear sanction that had stemmed its armoury. There is concern, not just in Delhi but elsewhere too, that Pakistan's new-generation weaponry could fuel a fierce arms race in the subcontinent.

Apart from the arms supply, the US is also dictating some strategic decisions to the Pakistani Army.

According to details available in the Mission Performance Plan for financial year 2004 of the US embassy in Islamabad, and updated on the US State Department website, the Americans persuaded Pakistan government to establish an Interior Air Wing in Quetta with five American helicopters.

Within months of 9/11, the US re-started supply of military wares to Pakistan. The initial supplies consisted of items such as UH-II utility helicopters, VHF/UHF aircraft radios, surveillance radars, reconnaissance helicopters, night-vision equipment etc. Almost all of these were meant for operations against the al-Qaeda and Taliban hiding near the Pak-Afghan border.

But now the arms supply has moved away from the war on terror.

If the schedule of supply and details given in the Mission Plan are anything to go by, then the floodgates of American military-industry have opened. On the pipeline are more than $1.5 billion worth of military supplies over five years. Plus, numerous futuristic deals.

The arms supply is now in full flow and icing on the cake is the F-16 fighters that Pakistan Air Force has been dreaming of for long. The Navy can look forward to a new generation of torpedoes to maritime aircraft.

But the biggest gainer would be the Army: a generational upgrade in almost its entire armoury including top of the line attack helicopters, radars.

Richard Armitage in a recent interview to a Pakistani TV channel said there are "more helicopters in the queue. We have gotten now a steady stream of dependable funding to help the Pakistani armed forces... We realise they need the proper equipment, so we have embarked on a five- year programme of support."

Armitage was referring to the $1.5 billion military aid that Pakistan is receiving over the next five years.

While Americans justify them in the name of terrorism, the supply is adding teeth to Pakistan's offensive capabilities that are almost completely focused on India.

Among the upcoming acquisitions that would make Indian military planners quite uncomfortable are F-16 fighters, upgraded P3C Orion long range maritime aircraft that can also be used as a strategic bomber, Harpoon missiles and a complete new generation of radars worth over $365 million.

What is increasingly frustrating to military planners in New Delhi is the fact that despite America's continued assertion of growing Indo-US defence cooperation, the Pentagon has not been so keen to give the latest equipment to India.

An expert points out that US is still trying to push P3B Orion, which is a generation older than P3C, with Indian Navy. Americans have told Indians that P3B Orions would only have the old airframe and would be fitted with the latest equipment.

America is presently upgrading Pakistan's decade-old TPS-43 G air defence radars. They are also presently engaged in supplying AN/TPS-77 air surveillance radars worth $100 million, and six aerostat L-88 radars worth $155 million. Incidentally, India is also in the process of inducting a similar version of Aerostat radars from Israel.

In this scenario, India and Pakistan are showing unprecedented greed in buying the latest generation military wares.

It was no coincidence that for the first time US companies participated in the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar 2004, Pakistan's international defence exhibition.

They had a sizeable presence at the highly protected exhibition on September 14-17 in Karachi. In those cut throat days of millions, American exhibitors and agents vied for space and money with representatives from countries such as North Korea and Sudan.

The economics of arms trade clearly takes precedence over the politics of war and peace. Be it nuclear or otherwise.

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