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The spoils of war

The spoils of war

Author: Sandeep Unnithan
Publication: India Today
Date: May 18, 2009
URL: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=1&task=view&id=40769&sectionid=40&issueid=105&latn=2

Introduction: Since 9/11, Pakistan has siphoned of billion of dollars from US aid for the 'War on Terror' to strengthen its offensive capabilities against India instead of the Taliban

Taking off from its base near Karachi, Pakistan's P-3C Orion, a US-built four-engined long-range maritime patrol aircraft, can fly nearly 9,000 km in 10 hours, carrying an array of torpedoes, weapons and anti-ship missiles to any point in the Indian Ocean. The Pakistan Navy is acquiring eight of these aircraft from the US after 9/11 as part of its role as a 'Major non-NATO Ally' in the war on terror.

These aircraft, bought with US aid of $970 million (Rs 4,800 crore) are pretty much useless against the Taliban, which is now threatening its existence, unless Baitullah Masood, head of the Pakistani Taliban, begins acquiring a navy. The targets, say Indian defence planners, undoubtedly are Indian Navy ships and submarines.

The Obama administration is now debating the Kerry-Lugar Bill which as part of its Af-Pak strategy will triple US assistance to Pakistan-$7.5 billion (Rs 37,070 crore) over the next five years, including $1.5 billion (Rs 7,400 crore) in military aid. The bill has resurrected concerns that this could be diverted for use against India. "Our experience has shown that military aid has been used against us in the past," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in New Delhi recently.

According to official US sources, Pakistan has received approximately $12.3 billion (Rs 60,700 crore) in aid since 2002, of which $8.6 billion (Rs 42,460 crore) came as military assistance. Where were the funds for military assistance spent? A recent study released by the Stockholm Institute of Peace Research Initiatives (SIPRI), an independent organisation which studies arms transfers, notes the deliveries in 2008-M-109A5 155-mm self-propelled artillery systems, P-3CUP Orion maritime patrol aircraft and F-16A combat aircraft.

Needless to say, none of these will be used in the Pakistan military's ongoing offensive to evict the Taliban PAKISTAN from north-western Pakistan, the so-called 'crucible of terrorism'. "We are concerned by the build-up in Pakistan's capabilities with arms ostensibly meant to fight an insurgency, and have conveyed this to the US at various levels in the past," says a senior Indian Defence Ministry official. As SIPRI notes, the volume of deliveries to Pakistan has increased significantly in recent years with 41 per cent of all transfers taking place last year alone.

Between 2004 and last year, 40 per cent of Pakistan's imports of major conventional weapons came from the US. "The US now accounts for onefourth of the conventional weapons exported to Pakistan," says Paul Holtom of SIPRI. Annual US military aid to Pakistan is currently around $300 million (Rs 1,480 crore) a year which could triple if the Kerry-Lugar Bill goes through.

Counter-insurgency, admittedly an area the Pakistan Army has little or no expertise in, calls for huge investments in training, transport helicopters and infantry weapons, which has not happened so far. "There is no congruence between the US objectives in South Asia and the nature of weapons and systems which Pakistan is being supplied so far," says Thomas Mathew, deputy director, Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. In fact, the weapons have had the opposite effect. "US military aid has always emboldened the Pakistan Army and ISI to wage asymmetric warfare against India and the terror attacks in Mumbai were part of the same continuum," says Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies.

Pakistan has traditionally used the canard of a danger on its western border to seek arms which are instead used on its eastern front. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan's military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq pressured the US and successfully obtained the F-16 fighter aircraft (later rejigged to carry nuclear weapons). It waged a proxy war against India by diverting to Kashmir the arms gifted by the CIA to the ISI to fight the Soviet invaders in Afghanistan.

The Obama administration has placed conditions on military aid, with President Obama asking Pakistan to get rid of its 'India obsession'. But according to Indian military analysts, it will be impossible to monitor the deployment of weapons the US supplies to Pakistan for its War on Terror Part II. "Since field inspections are not possible, the US will have to rely on annual statements from Pakistan about where the weapons have been deployed," says Kanwal.

Despite probing questions raised by the US Congress in the past, the US administration has managed to get the aid through. Last year, for instance, the US government managed to clear a $200-million upgrade in the targeting abilities of F-16s, ostensibly to mount precision attacks on the Taliban, despite objections from the Congress. Pakistan cited bankruptcy to get the US to pay for the upgrade. "The US administration must realise that the Pakistan Army and the ISI are part of the problem and cannot, therefore, be part of the solution," says Kanwal. In Deception, an investigative book which details A.Q. Khan's nuclear blackmarketeering allegedly with the connivance of the Pakistan army, a Musharraf aide gleefully informs the authors about being let off by President Bush: "We were back in the old relationship, you know, the one where we do as we please and they do as we please."

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