NEW DELHI: While the U.S. cleared billions of dollars’ worth arms sales to Pakistan for the fight against terror, including advanced F 16 fighters, it refused the sale of a crucial advanced missile technology due to concerns that it could be used to target India. A request by Islamabad to procure an advanced Harpoon missile system was turned down in 2009 after Washington determined that it would threaten India, latest diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal.
According to Indian media, in a cable dated March 18, 2009, U.S. Ambassador Anne W Patterson justified the sale of F 16 fighters to Pakistan, holding that it was not a threat as India has an overwhelming aerial superiority, and went on to say that Washington has occasionally denied “Pakistani requests for arms sales that could upset the regional balance of power”.
As an example, the cable quotes a decision taken in February 2009 turning down the request for the advanced Harpoon missile system. The reason given is that the new system would enable Pakistan to target the Indian coastline and would not have any use in the war against terror.
“We have and will deny arms sales that we believe would upset the regional balance of power, as we have with the recent GOP (Government of Pakistan) request to buy the Coastal Targeting Suppression System, which enables Harpoon missiles to be fired at land or near-land targets using GPS technology,” reads the cable titled “Saving the F 16 Program”.
The cable goes on to say that the “acquisition would have given Pakistan an overt offensive capability to threaten India and served no COIN (Counter Insurgency) purpose”.
India has on several occasions raised the issue of increasing arms sales to Pakistan with the U.S., with Defence Minister A K Antony bringing it to the attention of visiting high-level American officials. India has conveyed its concerns on the arms sales, holding that a range of equipment being sold or gifted is more useful in conventional warfare rather than the war against terror. Other cables that have also been released recently bring out the dire state of Pakistan’s financial health and express concerns that Islamabad has been spending billions on arms despite facing bankruptcy.
A cable dated January 2009 reveals that not only did Pakistan default in paying for the F 16 fighters that it ordered in 2006 but was also behind on payments to a crucial ally like China. The payments, the cable says, were related to the JF 17 fighter project with China that has been touted as Pakistan’s flagship joint fighter development program.
Pakistan also defaulted on payments for advanced airborne early warning systems from Sweden. “The GOP is also reportedly behind in payments to China, Sweden and other countries for JF-17s, Erieye Airborne Early Warning And Control (AEW&C) radar and other aircraft/ programs,” reads the cable.-Online