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Congress okays arms sale to Pakistan

December 17, 2004 12:26 IST
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The US Congress quietly endorsed a $1.2 billion arms package for Pakistan by not acting to stop it within the stipulated 30-day period, reports the Dawn quoting diplomatic sources in Washington.

Last month, the Bush administration notified Congress of its intention to sell sophisticated weapons to Pakistan, including eight P-3C Orion planes to strengthen surveillance of its coasts and borders.

According to the Dawn, the notification said the Pentagon would conclude negotiations with Pakistan on the proposed sale unless Congress acted to stop it within 30 days.

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Though the media reported the proposed package November 18, the notification to Congress was sent earlier and the required 30-day period expired on December 16, the daily said.

India had strongly objected to the US plan to sell weapons to Pakistan, saying it could affect the existing goodwill between India and the United States and could also jeopardize the India-Pakistan peace process, said the article.

Pakistan had rejected Indian objections as 'incomprehensible', saying that its modest defence requirements should not irk New Delhi.

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"It is incomprehensible that India, which has a massive weaponization and weapon acquisition programme, should object to Pakistan's modest defence requirements," Dawn quoted a spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad as saying.

The proposed $1.2 billion arms package would be the largest US foreign military sale to Pakistan since sanctions against the country were lifted in late 2001 as a reward for supporting US troops fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan, the article said.

Besides the Orion planes, Pakistan has also requested 2,000 TOW-2A anti-armour guided missiles and six Phalanx close-in weapons systems for its warships.

"The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not affect the basic military balance in the region," said the US Defence Security and Cooperation Agency while announcing the package.

The costliest items in the package are the P-3 aircraft, valued at an estimated $970 million if all options are exercised, the Dawn said.

It quoted the Pentagon as saying the command-and-control capabilities of these aircraft would improve Pakistan's ability to restrict the littoral movement of terrorists along Pakistan's southern border and ensure Pakistan's overall ability to maintain integrity of their borders.

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The P-3s are meant to hunt ships and submarines and will enhance the 'regional influence' of the Pakistani navy, the Pentagon observed. The TOW anti-armour guided missiles were valued at $82 million, while the Phalanx weapons systems were put at $155 million.

The Pentagon said the TOW guided missiles would help Pakistan 'provide for its own legitimate self-defence needs and would enable it to support US operations against terrorist activity along its porous borders'.

More reports from Pakistan

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