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U.S. amnesia on Pakistan
Published 11/22/2004 6:05 PM
ATLANTA, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Even as Pakistan's leadership was expressing its unrestrained glee with President George W. Bush's thumping re-election,
the new Bush administration wasted no time in making its first big move to reward Pakistan with advanced weaponry.
On Nov. 16, the Defense Security and Cooperation Agency sent notifications to Congress of a $1.3 billion arms package for Pakistan, a major
non-NATO ally of America
. The deal includes eight P-3C Orion naval reconnaissance planes possibly with anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles,
2,000 TOW-2A heavy anti-armor guided missiles and the deadly PHALANX Close-In Weapon Systems for ships. Ostensibly, these sales are to enable
Pakistan to fight the war on terror. What's even better for Pakistan is that the money for this sale is likely to come from the $1.5 billion over
five years that the U.S has promised Pakistan in military aid, making it a veritable freebie
Not to forget that what is still on the table is the deal for the F-16 fighter jets that Pakistan has been dying to get. Even though there is no
official word on the F-16s, there have been many reports that the deal is all but done and the Bush administration is waiting for an opportune time to
announce it, perhaps when Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf next visits Washington.
Now, if one takes this new Orion/TOW/Phalanx giveaway deal at face value, it seems like a reasonable proposition. After all, if the United States
expects Pakistan to fight terrorists, it behooves it to support its ally as much as possible, right? Not quite.
The problem is that these systems are unlikely to be used in Pakistan's much-vaunted operations in the tribal areas, which a senior
U.S official recently described to Time magazine as "7,000 to 10,000 Pakistani troops courageously battling 200 al-Qaida guys to a
The Pakistan army, for instance, could theoretically use the TOW missile against militant hideouts in the tribal areas. But one needs to look at the
specific version that Pakistan is seeking to see the fallacy of this claim.
The DSCA statement clearly states that the TOW variant that Pakistan wants is the "TOW-2A Anti-Armor Guided Missile." This missile's unique
feature is the "tandem" warhead that is specifically designed to be used against tanks with Explosive Reactive Armor. It is hard to
imagine the tribal militants in possession of ERA armored vehicles, but everyone knows who has such systems in Pakistan's neighborhood
On the other side of Pakistan, the Indian army is busy inducting the Russian made T-90S tanks with the Kontakt-5 ERA, just the type of armor the
TOW-2A is designed to penetrate
. It is unlikely to see Pakistan wasting its supply of TOW-2As when its huge supply of cheap Chinese anti-tank
missiles could do the trick against the mud structures of the tribal militants.
As they say, it doesn't make sense to use a sledgehammer to kill
Similarly, the P-3C planes have only one likely purpose -- to fight against India's large fleet of submarines and battleships.
Indeed there is very little that the Pakistan Navy could do in terms of tracking terrorist ships that the U.S. and NATO fleets in and around Pakistan
Besides, is the United States ever going to rely on the Pakistanis to track their coastline, when that area holds the biggest risk of a
nuclear-weapon-laden container being sent to American ports? Even the DSCA's press release on the P-3C sale says that the P-3C "will enhance the
capabilities of the Pakistani Navy and support its regional influence."
Similarly, the PHALANX system is meant to defend ships against fast incoming missiles and aircrafts, which terrorists are unlikely to have
Pakistan is likely to employ them on ships conducting operations against India.
And we are not even talking about the F-16s. If press reports from Washington are to be believed, Pakistan is likely to get 18 to 20 F-16 C/D
variants, possibly with AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and precision-guided bombs. It is hard to see how AMRAAM long range air-to-air
missiles help fight terrorists unless they are intended to bring down Osama Bin Laden's flying carpet
In the 1980s, Pakistan was a frontline ally of the U.S in the effort to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. During that time, supporters of
Pakistan in Capitol Hill and the Pentagon argued for giving that nation advanced arms, including the F-16 fighters as well as billions in military
. The F-16s were justified with an argument that a conventionally strong Pakistan is unlikely to develop nuclear weapons.
As it turned out later, Pakistan actually accelerated its nuclear program during the same period with the American taxpayer funding its
conventional defenses to the tune of $5 billion
, thereby freeing up funds for its nuclear program. Former Senate official Leonard Weiss revealed
in 2002 that Pakistan had in fact diverted two-thirds of the weaponry acquired from the United States ostensibly to protect against the Soviet threat
to the Indian border.
Washington Post Managing Editor Steve Coll wrote in his recent book "Ghost Wars" that Pakistan's intelligence services transferred weapons
obtained from the CIA, such as advanced sniper rifles, to the Islamist groups fighting against Indian troops in Kashmir. The Pakistan army
even used the famous Stinger missiles in its 1999 aggression into the Indian-held Kargil heights in Kashmir
Firstly, Pakistan is already close to max-out levels in its defense spending
. Its current defense budget for 2004-2005 is officially 194
billion rupees. But that doesn't include grants, pensions and other expenses, which increase the actual number to 300 billion rupees or approximately
$5 billion. If one adds to that the $600 million that Pakistan is getting in terms of free weaponry from the United States, it comes to
$3.6 billion or a whopping 8 percent of its 2003 gross domestic product. India, on the other hand, spends between 2 percent and 3 percent of
its GDP for defense
The fact is that there is never going to be an equality between Pakistan and India in conventional arms, just like India can never equal China's
numbers and China in turn can never match up to America's. Besides, aren't Pakistan's nuclear weapons supposed to obviate the need for Pakistan to
match India weapon for weapon?
But what the Pakistani military establishment clearly wants is a license to try to change the status quo through the use of sub-state actors, such
as the jihadi groups its uses in Kashmir supplemented by a U.S.-provided safety net when its ill thought-out military adventures backfire, like they
Now it is quite true that the military dominated Pakistani establishment has always viewed India as an aggressor and a mortal threat. But that does
not mean that the world should buy into this theory. In fact, most experts in Washington and elsewhere point out that Pakistan's main threat is an
internal one from homegrown Islamist groups and the radicalization of the Pakistani society in general and the army in particular.
In fact, the
unsaid fear factor is America's post 9/11 policy towards Pakistan has been the prospect of a radical Islamist regime taking control of Pakistan's
already leaky nuclear weapons complex.
It is therefore in the American interest to focus aid to Pakistan toward efforts to thwart the internal dangers, rather than
buttressing the Pakistani establishment's paranoia about the Indian "threat."
Former State Department official and South Asia expert
Teresita Schaffer pointed out in her July 14, 2004 testimony to the Senate that Pakistan has not abandoned its proclivity towards starting
reckless military adventures and continues to support Islamist militants in Kashmir who could provoke a war with India with one big attack.
She recommended against the sale of major weapons systems to Pakistan in that context
The Musharraf regime is already in a state of euphoria over the Bush re-election. They see Bush's win as something that would guarantee the
continuation of benefits that Pakistan enjoyed over the last four years -- lavish economic support, daily diplomatic encomiums, little pressure for
democratic reforms, coddling of Pakistani jihadi groups and a free pass on the A.Q. Khan deal and more cover up of Pakistani state involvement in
In this milieu, it is hard to see the latest American military largesse to Pakistan as having anything but a negative effect on the region's
stability. This could only serve to embolden the hard-line elements in Pakistan's military to get aggressive with India again. If the Kashmir talks
soon hit a dead end with Pakistan realizing that it cannot gain any territory from India on the negotiating table, we may possibly see another
"tactically brilliant" but strategically harebrained military adventure by Pakistan within the next four-years.
Like Yogi Berra once said -- "It's déjà vu all over again"
[edit on 26-11-2004 by rajkhalsa2004]