June 2, 2006Foreign AffairsSecurity

Harpoons and lies

The United States isn’t helping anyone by selling high-tech weapons systems to Pakistan

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Pakistan is making things difficult for the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, where Taliban 2.0 is fast regaining market share. On the A Q Khan business Pakistan insists that the case is closed while American diplomats beg to differ. It would seem then, that it is time for Washington to start reaching for the stick. Yet, what it has done is taken the first step towards allowing the sale of US$370 million worth of anti-ship missiles to the Pakistan Navy. The sale of Harpoon Block II and Sidewinder air-to-air missiles was announced about a year ago, and it appears that the Bush administration is going ahead with that plan regardless of some marked changes on the ground.

Again the FATWAT justification has been used to clear this sale, so it will be interesting to see how the Pakistan Navy will use American-supplied P3-C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft armed with American supplied anti-ship missiles to capture Osama bin Laden and other high-value al-Qaeda targets in the mountains of Waziristan.

And that earthquake was supposed to change the Musharraf regime’s spending priorities. Yet making half-commitments to the international community that it will defer the purchase of military hardware and securing development to the tune of US$5 billion, it took the Pakistani government a only a few months to go back to its original spending habits.

The Pakistan Navy already has an inventory of older Harpoon missiles fitted onto its French-designed submarines, and if the US Congress permits, the new missiles will be a significant technological upgrade to its anti-ship and littoral warfare capabilities. While this does not automatically change the naval balance of power vis-a-vis India, the question still remains why the United States should desire to allow Pakistan to attempt to do so. In recent weeks there were a flurry of high-profile American civil and military officials visiting Islamabad and meeting Gen Musharraf: they could be discussing anything from Iran, to al-Qaeda to general elections in Pakistan next year. Whatever the case, handing Pakistan more military hardware as to sweeten deals is a poor way to go. For Pakistan, for India and well, for the United States.



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