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Pakistan arms policy rethink prod for Bush

Washington, Nov. 8: With the mid-term elections out of the way, US lawmakers who are trusted friends of India have got down to work in an attempt to neutralise new strains in the US-Pakistan friendship.

American arms supplies to Pakistan constitute the most significant new strain in ties between Washington and Islamabad. This has prompted alarm bells in New Delhi.

Reports this week said General Pervez Musharraf’s regime was all set to acquire an anti-ballistic missile system from America at a cost of $1.5 billion in addition to other deals being considered through the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group.

Even before the White House has recovered from the post-election ennui, Congressman Gary Ackerman yesterday wrote to President George W. Bush, urging him to re-impose sanctions on Pakistan for its cooperation with North Korea on nuclear weapons and missiles.

“If true, these allegations would require that Pakistan be subject to both nuclear and missile sanctions prohibiting nearly all forms of US assistance,” Ackerman wrote.

Ackerman, the ranking member of the House of Representatives International Relations sub-committee on the Middle East and South Asia, is one of the pioneers of the India Caucus on Capitol Hill.

His views on North Korea have a lot of credibility here because many years ago, when there were few Western contacts with Pyongyang, Ackerman had crossed the de-militarised zone between the two Koreas.

“It is premature for the administration to exercise waivers of existing US sanctions on Pakistan for fiscal year 2003 until the facts concerning these allegations have been established and the administration has consulted with Congress as to whether or not new missile and/or nuclear sanctions are warranted,” Ackerman wrote to Bush.

The senior Democrat from New York pointed out to Bush that consultations had begun on waiving the remaining democracy-related sanctions on Pakistan following the elections there.

“I urge you not to complete that waiver process until a decision has been made on additional sanctions and after the Congress has been fully consulted.”

Ackerman conceded that Pakistan had provided “substantial support” for America’s war against al Qaida and the Taliban. He also conceded that the Congress had given Bush the authority to waive sanctions on Pakistan in order to prosecute the war against terrorism.

“However, these new allegations of Pakistan’s collaboration with North Korea, a designate state sponsor of terrorism and a clear threat not only to US treaty allies but to the US homeland, present us with new security circumstances,” requiring a review of our policy towards Pakistan, Ackerman asserted.

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