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‘Pak used US billions to arm against India’

A NYT report claims the US spent more than $5 bn in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pak effort against terror, reports Amit Baruah.

world Updated: Dec 25, 2007 03:12 IST
Amit Baruah

Pakistan has used funds provided by the United States to cover costs in the campaign against terrorism to help purchase weapons systems directed against India, the New York Times has reported.

<b1>The newspaper claimed the US had spent more than $5 billion in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pakistani military effort against the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. US officials acknowledged that there were too few controls over how the money was spent.

The funds diverted came from the $5 billion provided through a programme known as Coalition Support Funds, which reimburses Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism. Under a separate head, Pakistan receives $300 million per year in American military financing that pays for equipment and training.

Asked for a response to the report, senior Government of India officials said they were aware of such diversions. "We are concerned, but what can we do about it?" the officials admitted. "Our own weapons acquisition programme is four times larger than that of Pakistan."

Both the officials and analysts contacted by HT said Pakistan had diverted funds provided by the US to bolster the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan back in the 1980s.

"You can hardly use F-16s to fight terrorism," the officials said, pointing out that the $10-12 billion received by Pakistan from the US and other sources since the 9/11 terror attacks were roughly equivalent to the weapons systems purchased by Pakistan.

According to the NYT report, Pakistani military officials submit bills and are paid for supplies, wear and tear on equipment and other costs, as well as for the American use of three Pakistani air bases under the Coalition Support Funds programme.

"The United States since 2001 has deposited more than $5 billion in reimbursements into the Pakistani government’s general budget account, the largest single portion of some $10 billion in aid to Islamabad in that time. Also included in that larger amount is $1.9 billion in security assistance, which Pakistan has used to buy new radios for troops, night-vision goggles and refurbished Cobra attack helicopters," the paper said.

Pakistani officials claimed that the Coalition Support Funds money goes into the national treasury to repay the government for money already spent on 100,000 troops deployed in the tribal areas. But American military officials felt the funds do not reach the men who need it.

"Pakistan’s arms purchases have no relation to the war against terror," MK Bhadrakumar, a former Indian official who handled the Pakistan desk at the External Affairs Ministry, told HT. "These guys (the Pakistanis) are having a ball."

Bhadrakumar claimed a so-called "de-hyphenated" policy pursued by the US towards India and Pakistan had only given Washington "more space" to continue its own policies.

Defence analyst K Subrahmanyam said: "They (the Pakistanis) are past masters at this. It (the diversion of funds) is a reflection of how the US State Department deals with Pakistan."

According to a US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, the US had signed arms transfer agreements with Pakistan "in excess of" $3.5 billion, ranking Pakistan first among all arms clients of the US during that calendar year.

The November 2007 report said key elements in Pakistan’s arms purchases from the US were 36 F-16 C/D Block 50/52 aircraft for $1.4 billion and a variety of missiles and bombs for the F-16s for $640 million.

"The total value of Pakistan’s 2006 arms purchases from the United States nearly matches the total value of all foreign military sales (FMS) program purchases by Pakistan from the United States for the entire period from FY1950-FY2001 (more than $3.6 billion in current dollars)," the CRS document added.

In Islamabad, the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) expressed shock at press reports about the squandering of US military aid to Pakistan. "Soldiers are still fighting with outdated weapons and equipment…" the PPP said, echoing the newspaper report.

"This also reflects the importance of a sovereign and strong parliament that…has the responsibility to safeguard the life and interest of both the civilians and the military," the PPP statement added.