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Thursday, 24 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 24 Jul

US expert defends Pakistan military aid, sees ties at high point

WASHINGTON, July 23 (APP): The United States and Pakistan currently have a relatively high point of military relationship despite ups and downs, a noted American defense expert said while also strongly defending U.S security assistance for Islamabad’s conventional balance with India.

“Today, the relationship is a relatively high point,” defense analyst David Smith said, citing close cooperation between the two countries in the post-9/11 period at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank.

Smith, who is associated with Pentagon as a senior director on Pakistan (policy), was expressing his personal views during a discussion Tuesday on U.S.-Pakistan military relations in the context of counter terrorism challenges. Pakistani expert Shuja Nawaz and former State Department adviser Lisa Curtis also participated.

“Pakistan is an indispensable ally in the war on terror, our desire for long-term relationship is not confined to military aspect alone, we are working very hard to find ways to increase our economic and social development programs in Pakistan and find ways to demonstrate to the people of Pakistan the value of the strategic relationship.”

In the context of ‘rocky nature of the past relationship between the two countries, he acknowledged the importance of overcoming trust deficit and the need for the United States to demonstrate to Pakistan that “we are in Afghanistan to finish the job and are a reliable security partner now and in future.”

At the same time, he observed that any agreements with tribal leaders on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border need to be enforceable to stop militants from having any sanctuary and conducting any attacks into Afghanistan and Pakistan itself.

The U.S., he said, “cannot allow al-Qaeda to regroup and plan attacks.”

Commenting on Pakistan’s security concerns in respect of U.S. strategic ties with India he said, the U.S. realizes that India and Pakistan have had a very troubled past, had three wars and a major mobilization of forces of both armies in 2002. “Pakistan is concerned about the direction of U.S. strategic relationship with India, is concerned about things like civilian nuclear deal, India’s presence in Afghanistan and fears that the future arms sales by the United States to India may alter the conventional military balance in the sub-continent in India’s favor.”

He said the U.S. has to convince both sides that its relationship with them is not a series of zero-sum games, “that we share the same goals, certainly countering terrorism and we want sustainable long-term relationship with both countries.”

Defending the U.S. military assistance for Pakistan vis-vis conventional military balance between Pakistan and India, he said the U.S. has committed itself to meeting Pakistan’s legitimate security needs.

Any assessment of the conventional military balance between the two countries shows that in almost every category India is expanding, he noted in response to a question.

“Now the list of equipment we are in the process of providing to Pakistan is very modest by the scales of present plans for modernization of the Indian armed forces.

“So I dont see there is a significant shift in the conventional military balance by any of the systems that I listed,” he stated, referring to New Delhi’s massive defense purchases and modernization plans and the U.S. provision of F-16 jets, maritime surveillance aircraft and other equipment.

Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani expert and author of the book “Crossed Swords: Pakistan,

Its Army and the Wars Within,” underlined the need for meeting insurgency challenges in the border region through a multifaceted strategy instead of a uni-dimensional emphasis on military component. He pointed out the need for addressing governance problems on the Afghan side including nexus between drugs and violence.

Nawaz said the U.S. can play an important role in removing frictions between Pakistan and India, who are engaged in a peace process to resolve outstanding issues including the thorny Kashmir dispute. Washington, he stated, could help ease border strains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“It may be a good idea for the U.S. to recognize this is an issue,” he said in reference to the oft-voiced need for prodding Kabul on formal acceptance of Durand Line as the border.

Lisa Curtis, senior fellow for South Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation, favored deployment of more troops on the Afghan side of the border and said both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates recognize the need for more deployments in the insurgency-hit country.

Govt plans to buy 197 helicopters

ASIANAGE 23 July, 2008 04:20:10

July 23: The ministry of defence (MoD) is expected to issue the Request for Proposal (RFP) on Thursday for 197 light-utility helicopters in a deal expected to be worth about Rs 3,000 crores. Of these, 133 helicopters will be for the Indian Army and 64 will be for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The RFP will be issued to six vendors, including three American vendors. This is the first major RFP to be floated by the UPA Government after withdrawal of support by the Left, which is opposed to the growing Indo-US defence co-operation.

The vendors are Bell Helicopters of the US, Eurocopter of the European EADS consortium, Augusta Westland of Italy, Rosoboron-Kamov of Russia , McDonnel Douglas of the US and Sikorsky of the US. The government has decided that the "offset" amount for the acquisition would be 50 per cent and the vendors are likely to be given three months to respond. The induction of the helicopters is expected by 2010 and will replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopter fleet of the armed forces.

India had cancelled an RFP in 2007 for acquisition of 197 helicopters for the Indian Army’s aviation wing following discrepancies detected in the field trials.

Pakistan Army withdrawal from politics is strategic and army may come back if there is a crisis

Wednesday, 23 July 2008 02:52

The Pakistan Army’s withdrawal from politics is strategic and not tactical and it will not return to politics unless there’s a crisis in the country, scholars said at a seminar in Washington.

“The army realises that the last years have hurt the institution badly,” said Shuja Nawaz, the author of a recent book on the Pakistan Army. “They are out and they want to stay out.”

The discussion on US-Pakistan military ties was held against the backdrop of the recent increase in attacks on US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. The speakers also noted that Pakistan grappled with its own burgeoning Taliban insurgency in the tribal borderlands.

Such developments, they noted, had created new challenges for US-Pakistan military ties.

They said that more aggressive coalition counter-insurgency tactics in eastern Afghanistan were bringing US troops closer to the border with Pakistan and the situation required ever closer communication and joint efforts to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation.

The organisers, the Heritage Foundation, pointed out that the US frustration with an entrenched terrorist safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas and lack of faith in the efficacy of Pakistani negotiations to deal with the problem “also are creating misunderstanding and crossed wires.”

In this charged atmosphere, what are the future prospects for addressing terrorism challenges on a joint basis? Should the US shift its strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan? What can be expected from Pakistan in the near and long-term? How can both sides build trust in each other and strengthen the chances of overall success against the terrorist scourge in South Asia? These were some of the questions the speakers addressed in their presentations.

David Smith, a senior director for Pakistan at the Office of the US Undersecretary of Defence, highlighted a change in Islamabad, saying that the Pakistani policy makers now realise the need to coordinate their defence needs with economic developments and are willing to spend more on social projects.

Mr Smith also disagreed with suggestion that the weapons given to Pakistan for fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda will be used against India. The US military assistance to Pakistan cannot bring any significant changes to the conventional balance of power in South Asia, he said. “Besides, the 2006 joint statement also talked about meeting Pakistan’s genuine defence needs,” he added.

The US official rejected the suggestion that Pakistan was protecting the Taliban so that it can use them to fight its war in Kashmir.

“Whatever utility anyone thought they had is false,” he said. “They are a threat to the Pakistani army, they are a threat to the Pakistani government and they are a threat to the Pakistani nation.”

“We will not rest until that goal (of destroying the militant groups) is achieved,” he declared.

Mr Nawaz, who is the younger brother of Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua, the 10th army chief, emphasised the need for the United States to expand its ties with Pakistan and reach out to democratic forces.

“The United States should move away from the what-you-have-done-lately- for-us approach,” he said. “If the Americans insist on dealing with the military alone and on ignoring the politicians, it will hurt US interests in Pakistan.”

Mr Nawaz noted that the new army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has categorically assured Pakistan’s new rulers that they army has no plan to return to politics. “Now it is up to the politicians to ensure that the country is not plunged into yet another crisis because if there is a crisis, the army may come back,” he warned.

Mr Nawaz advised the new government to “take difficult but useful decisions, so that the army learns to respect you.”

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