Wednesday, September 2, 2009

US: Pak has agreed for inspections

Responding to “serious” American concerns about illegal modifications made by Pakistan to the US-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles that could target India, Islamabad has agreed for “mutual inspections” of the weapon system. This was disclosed today by US Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P J Crowley, who said that the Obama Administration has taken up the matter with Pakistan.

His comments came two days after the New York Times reported that Pakistan had illegally modified the Harpoon anti-ship missile to expand its capacity to strike land targets for potential use against India. “This is something that we take very seriously. We have raised the issue with the Pakistani Government. The (Pakistan) government has responded with an agreement in principle for mutually agreed inspections,” Crowley told when asked about the Times report.

“In this particular case, we have some concerns. We shared them with the Government of Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan has been responsive,” he said, adding “we would wait and see if those inspections can address the concerns that we have raised.” The newspaper, quoting unnamed Administration officials, had said the US also accused Pakistan of modifying American- made P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft for land-attack missions in a violation of the American laws, including the Arms Control Export Act.

“I am not going to talk about specific issues, brought up in the story. We watch this closely. These are important agreements. This is not about any one country. With any country with which we exchange our defence articles, we have this kind of agreement,” Crowley said.“When we have concerns about how those systems should be used, we raise these concerns with the appropriate governments,” he noted.The violations by Pakistan were first noted by the American intelligence agencies on April 23, The New York Times said, when Pakistan had an unannounced suspicious missile test, that appeared to give the country a new offensive weapon. Pakistan has denied those charges.

The modified version of the missile would be a significant new entry into Pakistan’s arsenal against India as these would enable its small navy to strike targets on land in India, this complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed, it had said.The Congress is in the final stages of taking a decision on providing $ 7.5 billion in civilian aid to Pakistan in the next five years. The latest expose has the potential to “derail” this, the daily said.

Crowley said the Administration is keeping the Congress fully informed. Asked if this would have any impact on the future of US aid to Pakistan, he said: “I would like to take one step at a time. We have raised some concerns. It has been done at the highest levels over lengthy period of time. As we gain more facts, (we) will understand its potential implications.”


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