The Pentagon has confirmed one of South Asia's worst kept secrets - that Pakistan has used billions of dollars of US aid to buy a mind-boggling array of conventional American weaponary to use against India.
The aid was meant for Pakistan to fight the war on terror. India has repeatedly pointed out that much of the military hardware on Pakistan's shopping list was not suited to anti-terror operations. Now, Pentagon reports have revealed that even the money poured into Islamabad's coffers by the Bush administration fter 9/11 specifically to fight al Qaida and the Taliban, was used to develop offensive capabilities against India.
The Pentagon reports detail the brazen diversion of funds given to Pakistan between 2002 and 2009 and the Pervez Musharraf government -- often described by George W Bush as America's "strong" ally in the "war against terror" - to acquire arms ranging from anti-tank missiles to F 16s. The arsenal was meant to blunt India's edge in conventional weaponry.
It is thought significant that the US Congress is currently debating another aid bill for Pakistan with a substantial military component, even as lawmakers express concern about Islamabad arming itself against India. The debate may have gained fresh traction, but Pakistan , which has shrewdly exploited the dubious distinction of being the epicentre of worldterrorism, may have its way yet again.
The Pakistani trait of diverting arms given to it by US goes back to the 1950s when it was a member of Cento (Baghdad Pact), which was an essentially Cold War grouping. The field armour it recieved from the US was used in the 1965 war against India.Six years later, in a letter to the Nixon administration at a time India-US ties were at their lowest ebb, Indira Gandhi noted that "It was a sad chapter in our sub-continent when US began supply of arms to Pakistan in 1954 and continued to do so till 1965. The arms have been used against us, as indeed we feared they would be."
This time around, almost four decades later, Pakistan seems to have done one better by using American money to buy American arms. Pentagon reports say arms were bought from America in the years under review with some of Pakistan's own money, some US foreign military financing(FMF), some from what is called excess defense articles and some from a fund known as coalition support funds (CSF) given to Pakistan for fighting terrorists.
Pakistan's big-ticket conventional military buys include 18 new F-16 C/D Block 50/52 combat aircraft (valued at $1.43 billion; none delivered yet), F-16 armaments including 500 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; 1,450 2,000-pound bombs; 500 JDAM tail kits for gravity bombs and 1,600 enhanced paveway laser-guided kits, also used for gravity bombs ($629 million); 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles ($298 million); 500 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles ($95 million) and six Phalanx close-in naval guns ($80 million).
Pentagon concluded $4.89 billion worth foreign military sales (FMS) agreements ith Pakistan between 2002 and 2008, although the bulk includes theF-16 sales. The US gave $1.9 billion foreign military financing with what it calls a "base programme" of $300 million a year from 2005-2009. It is this that has been used to buy US military equipment. What else did Pakistan buy with this money?
Eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and their refurbishment (valued at $474 million); about 5,250 TOW anti-armor missiles ($186 million; 2,007 delivered); more than 5,600 military radio sets ($163 million); six AN/TPS-77 surveillance radars ($100 million); six C-130E transport aircraft and their refurbishment ($76 million); and 20 AH-1F Cobra attack helicopters granted under EDA, then refurbished ($48 million, 12 delivered, 8 pending refurbishment for an additional $65 million).
Pakistan bought some other stuff with a mixture of its own money and FMF funds. These include up to 60 Mid-Life Update kits for F-16A/B combat aircraft (valued at $891 million, with $477 million of this in FMF, Pakistan currently plans to purchase 35 such kits); and 115 M-109 self-propelled howitzers ($87 million, with $53 million in FMF).
Pakistan also has been granted US defense supplies as Excess Defense Articles (EDA). While India has been celebrating the arrival of its Phalcon Awacs systems, Pakistan got the Pentagon to transfer three P3-B aircraft as EDA grants which would be modified to house the E-2C-Hawkeye airborne early warning systems worth $855 million. Last week the Pakistan air force chief announced that these "eyes in the sky" would be delivered "very soon".
Pakistan also got 14 F-16A/B combat aircraft and 39 T-37 military trainer jets. To fight terror, Pakistan has been given 26 Bell 412 utility helicopters, along with related parts and maintenance, valued at $235 million. Finally, under 1206 and Frontier Corps Authorities, the US has provided Pakistan with helicopter spare parts, night vision goggles, radios, body armor, helmets, first aid kits, litters, and other individual soldier equipment.
Pakistan is not inadequately equipped or trained to fight terror. If it wants, Pakistan can fight terror several times over. But it is seen to be preparing for conflict with India.
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