F-16 sale to Pak may face more roadblocks
The Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans has introduced a joint resolution disapproving F-16s for Pakistan.india Updated: Jul 22, 2006 12:22 IST
Gary Ackerman, Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, has introduced a joint resolution in the House of Representatives disapproving the proposed sale of F-16 fighter jets and other weapons to Pakistan in a $5.1 billion arms deal.
The resolution, introduced on Friday, has been referred to the House Committee on International Relations which on Thursday upbraided the Bush administration for what it called a calculated move to diminish Congressional authority in rushing the deal without the traditional 20 days of pre-notification consultations to address any of its concerns.
But despite the swell of all-round anger witnessed during an open hearing, there is little likelihood of the deal being blocked, as there was no real opposition to the F-16 sale as such from either Republican or Democrat members of the panel.
To block the deal notified to Congress on June 28, both the House and the Senate must pass resolutions rejecting it before the 30-day review period runs out next week - a prospect which appeared highly unlikely - and then override a Bush veto.
Ackerman introduced the resolution despite assurances from Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs John Hillen that members' concerns about leakage of technology from Pakistan were being addressed by "an extraordinary security plan" imposed on the planes and components, and accepted by the Pakistan Air Force.
Democrat Brad Sherman said the Congressional "outrage" over lack of consultations could not be addressed by mere promises of better behaviour in the future or a resolution of disapproval as proposed by Ackerman.
But he too was not opposed to the deal and wanted it to be kept on hold until the administration retraced its steps.
Describing Pakistan as a key country and a strategic partner in South Asia, Hillen said Islamabad had paid a high political price with the Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies assailing the Pakistani government regularly for allegedly doing America's bidding with no benefit to Pakistan.
"We are asking Pakistan to do difficult things to protect Americans, and we must show concern in return for Pakistan's security.
The F-16 sale provides a clear and concrete signal to all Pakistanis that Pakistan's security is important to the United States," he said.
A confident Pakistan that feels secure is more likely to pursue peace and cooperation with its neighbours.
Conversely, a Pakistan that feels vulnerable is more likely to rely on nuclear weapons and non-conventional tactics to ensure its security, Hillen concluded.
But Ackerman did not believe that Pakistan needs F-16s to assist the US in the war on terror. In particular, he did not believe that these planes would help the US or Pakistan in the war against Al-Qaeda along the Pakistan/Afghan border, unless Al-Qaeda has suddenly deployed fighter jets of their own.
Second, it is well-known that disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan and his nuclear Wal-Mart transferred sensitive nuclear technologies to terrorist states, he said, noting that "allegedly he miraculously did this without the knowledge of the government of Pakistan".
"This technology was Pakistan's most closely held state secret, yet, somehow, equipment and designs found their way out of Pakistan to Iran, North Korea and Libya, for a price.
I have a hard time believing that whatever security arrangements Pakistan has agreed to won't be violated by someone with an interest in earning a little ready cash," Ackerman said.