Validating New Delhi's fears that Islamabad was using US security aid to beef up its military against it, the Obama administration has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying the Harpoon anti-ship missile and maritime surveillance aircraft P-3C for land attacks for potential use against India.
The Obama Administration, reported the New York Times in a front page story, lodged its protest in this regard with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in June, adding to the tension between the two countries.
Quoting unnamed officials from the Administration and the US Congress, the daily said Washington has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of United States law.
The Obama Administration's accusation confirms New Delhi's stand that the US military aid is primarily used by Pakistan to strengthen and build up its army against India.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna earlier this month said that India has conveyed to the US that all forms of aid provided to Pakistan is "invariably directed" against New Delhi and providing more arms to Islamabad will not help the peace process in the region.
"We have told the US that particularly in case of Pakistan, whatever aid in whatever form has been given to them is invariably directed against India and this has been emphatically registered with the US government," Krisha had said, reacting to the US' plans to provide more military aid to Pakistan.
The New York Times said Pakistan has refuted the charge that it modified the missiles and claimed that it developed these itself. Between 1985 and 1988, the US had provided 165 Harpoon missiles to Pakistan.
The daily said top leaders of the Congress have been briefed about the protest lodged by the Obama Administration.
The Congress is currently in the process of approving a legislation which triples the non-military aid to Pakistan which along with the military aid amounts to $7.5 billion in five years. The dispute could derail this legislation, the daily said.
"Whatever their origin, the missiles would be a significant new entry into Pakistan's arsenal against India. They would enable Pakistan's small navy to strike targets on land, complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed," the New York Times said.
"The focus of our concern is that this is a potential unauthorised modification of a maritime anti-ship defensive capability to an offensive land-attack missile," a senior administration official was quoted as saying.
The potential for "proliferation and end-use violations are things we watch very closely," the official said. "When we have concerns, we act aggressively," the official said.
According to the paper, a senior unnamed Pakistani official said that the missile tested was developed by Pakistan, just as it had modified North Korean designs to build a range of land-based missiles that could strike India.