| Bush : Balancing act'
Washington, Dec. 9: Even as a dedicated team from the Bush administration was mobilising Senators for a surprise unanimous vote in favour of the Indo-US nuclear deal, another secretive group in the administration ensured that Pakistan was simultaneously compensated for the landmark change in Washington’s approach to India’s use of civilian nuclear energy.
As members of the House of Representatives and Senators headed for Capitol Hill yesterday for the final rites approving legislative sanction for the deal, the Bush administration quietly announced at the Pentagon that it would equip Pakistan with thousands of missiles, airborne early warning systems and associated equipment worth a phenomenal $1.04 billion.
The proposed sale, notified to the Congress, comes close on the heels of unprecedented American participation in an International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) in Karachi a few days ago.
Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and several other US defence companies, which are enthusiastic supporters of the Indo-US nuclear deal and potential sellers of arms to India, participated actively in the five-day event.
Ironically, the official slogan of IDEAS, which was inaugurated by none other than General Pervez Musharraf, was “arms for peace” and its theme was “expanding global security”.
The Bush administration’s profit-motivated attempt to sell nuclear technology to India and conventional arms to Pakistan is drawing criticism here.
There are fears that this may upset the conventional military balance in South Asia, but will not prevent a nuclear arms race in the sub-continent.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, asked in the latest issue of the association’s journal: “What is the most serious weapons-related security threat'”
Then he answered: “The latest geostrategic rationale for many US (arms) sales is the so-called war on terror.... US officials claim that the recent sale to Pakistan of F-16 jets with air-to-air missiles will help in the fight against al Qaida. In reality, they are for fighting India and they create a market for selling similar US fighters to India.”
Norman Wulf, a former US presidential representative for nuclear non-proliferation, said: “I very much fear that what we have taught the other... governments is that... all proliferation is bad, is no longer valid. Rather, the principle is, well, if it is really important to you to have a good relationship with a country, or if it is really important for you to make this one sale, it is all right.”
The latest US arms sale to Pakistan involves 2,769 Radio Frequency TOW 2A missiles, 415 RF bunker buster missiles, fly-to-buy missiles in both these categories, 121 TOW launchers for wire-guided and wireless missiles, E-2C HAWKEYE 2000 Airborne Early Warning Systems, simulators and support equipment.
Some of these items are for Pakistan’s air defence network in aid of its naval forces. By no stretch does Pakistan face any massive naval threat from the Taliban or from al Qaida.
Therefore, these equipment can only be used against the Indian navy while the missiles can prove deadly for India in the event of a war.
For Indian officials and supporters of India here as well as Indian Americans, who worked tirelessly to pass the bill approving the nuclear deal in the early hours of this morning, the proposed sale to Pakistan of arms, which is primarily for use against India, has come as a severe dampener.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously while the House of Representatives approved it by 330 to 59. President George W. Bush is expected to sign it into law on Monday or Tuesday.
But the arms sale to Pakistan in the midst of Indian elation is reminiscent of former secretary of state Colin Powell’s high-profile visit to New Delhi in 2004, when he declined to tell India about conferring “major non-Nato ally” status to Pakistan, but sprang the surprise in Islamabad.