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US House Bill links Pak aid to crackdown on terrorist groups targeting India

US House Bill links Pak aid to crackdown on terrorist groups targeting India

Author: Pranab Dhal Samanta
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: April 11, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/us-house-bill-links-pak-aid-to-crackdown-on/445799/

Introduction: Calls for Presidential determination that no element of Pak Army or ISI is supporting terror group

It's got a cautious welcome in New Delhi and is expected to provoke strong pressure from Islamabad.

The new Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement (PEACE) Act moved on Capitol Hill this week requires the US President for the first time to include, in his annual determination, that no element of the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency is supporting terror groups that have conducted attacks on India.

The PEACE Act 2009 provides for $3 billion in US military aid and $7.5 billion in social and economic assistance to Pakistan over the next five years.

Moved by House International Relations Committee head Howard Berman (Democrat-California) in the House of Representatives, it states that the President has to send a determination at the "beginning of each fiscal year that the Government of Pakistan in the preceding fiscal year has demonstrated sustained commitment to and made progress towards combating terrorist groups".

The Bill will be subject to a thorough debate. The US Senate is drafting its own version and is in consultations with White House on conditions which need to be specified.

According to the Bill moved by Berman, the President's determination will "take into account" the progress Pakistan has made with regard to: "Ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, including Afghanistan National Security Forces, or against the territory of India or the people of India."

The determination, which will have to made within six months after the passage of the Act and then every fiscal year, must certify that the "Government of Pakistan is continuing to cooperate with the United States in efforts to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related material, including, as necessary, providing access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks".

The clear mention of India and the need to link access to the Pakistani nuclear programme in the context of the AQ Khan network, is being seen as a positive step in New Delhi even though the Obama Administration's stand on these specific issues will be spelled out during its conversations with the US Congress in the coming weeks.

Even in the reporting requirements for the Obama Administration, which are rather routine communications not requiring as much attention of US President as the determination would, Berman has addressed Indian interests.

The Act requires the President to provide an annual evaluation how Pakistan has fared on the following:

o Disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and Taliban

o Close terrorist camps, including those of Jamat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Toiba

o Cease all support for extremist and terrorist groups

o Prevent cross border attacks

In the non-binding portion of the Bill, called the Declaration of Principles, the proposed Act states US intentions to build a long-term partnership with Pakistan to build its democratic and civilian institutions.

At the same time, it lists what the Congress expects from Pakistan, which includes "not to support any person or group that conducts violence, sabotage or any activities meant to instill fear or terror in India".

It also calls for Pakistani cooperation in allowing US investigators access to individuals "suspected of engaging in worldwide proliferation of nuclear materials".

Clearly, the Presidential determination is of utmost interest to India because according to the US system, it is signed by the President himself and bears the Administration's credibility. Five days before sending the determination, the President also has to provide a "written justification" which can have annexure that is confidential. In the past, such determination was required for Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme in the F-16 sales of the 1980s under military assistance initiative. Then US President Ronald Reagan continued to determine for about six years that Pakistan was not developing nuclear weapons.

While this was not wholly true, one year the determination changed and the F-16 sales stopped.

Berman's Bill also prohibits any further sale or upgrade of F-16s except what is needed for meeting the upgrade commitment made in 2006 through an understanding reached between the Bush Administration and Pakistan.

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