Is America Indias Friend Or Foe

Updated: Mar 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
The designation of Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally (MNNA) and the insensitive manner in whi-ch it was done would, no doubt, have some impact on the ongoing dialogue between India and the US. The degree of impact would depend on the political and military significance of the act. Political, if the US reverted to the Nixon/Kissinger era ideology when India was viewed through the Pakistani prism with Pakistans interests taking precedence; and military, if it facilitates any special military assistance to Pakistan.

Designating a country as MNNA was passed into US law as Sec 517 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) in 1996. Till then, US laws used to name a few States with who they had special relations with and were granted exemptions under various acts. After 9/11, eight more countries, including Pak-istan were included in the list.

The MNNA designation impacts the following sections of US Code:

i) Sec 514(c) of FAA makes it possible for the US to stockpile articles specifically set aside for use as war reserves for allies to locations outside the US. The annual addition to this stockpile is restricted to the amount specified in the assistance authorising legislation.

ii) Sec 516 of FAA gives priority to MNNA countries on NATOs southern and south-eastern flank in delivery of excess defence articles (EDA), with Congressional legislation limiting the EDA amount that can be transferred. Since the bulk of the EDA transferred during any year is mostly for NATO and MNNAs, Pakistan has no material advantage over other EDA recipients. Moreover, because of the age of the EDA released, it is not always accepted by the in-tended recipient (in 2004, although Pakistan was offered seven (7) 44 Motor Life Boats, it rejected the offer). And with a diminishing procurement budget, the US will be declaring more obsolete equipment as excess, further diminishing the concessions utility.

iii) Sec 589 of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 1996 would en-able assistance to Pakistan for joint counter-terrorism R&D projects within an overall budgetary restriction of $3 mn for all such projects.

iv) Sec 620G of FAA would allow for the sale of depleted uranium anti-tank shells to Pakistan. However, depleted uranium is defined as source material by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and under US laws, no export shall be made unless IAEA safeguards are maintained in the recipient state (Sec 128 of the Atomic Energy Act). Since Pakistan has no full-scope safeguards agreement with IAEA, such sales cannot take place.

v) Sec 21(g) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA). Pakistan and the US can enter into a standardisation agreement for cooperative training on bilateral/multilateral basis if financial principles are based on reciprocity. This may reduce some costs for Pakistan.

vi) Sec 23 of the AECA allows financing for procurement by leasing/purchasing defence articles from US commercial suppliers. But this excludes major defence equipment.

vii) Sec 27 of the AECA and Title 10 USC 2350a would allow the US and Pakistan to enter into a cooperative project agreement for conducting R&D projects on defence equipment and munitions.

viii) Sec 65 of AECA allows loan of materials, supplies or equipment for co-operative R&D, testing, or evaluation.

ix) Special export controls under Sec 124.15 of ITAR wont be required for the export of any satellite or related item (see 121.1 Cat-egory XV(a)&(e) of ITAR) or any defence service controlled by this sub-chapter of ITAR associated with the launch in, or by nat-ionals of, Pakistan. Since Pakistan has no satellite launch capability, it has no practical relevance.

It is not clear if the defence articles to be stockpiled in Pakistan are exempt from the usual Congressional notification requirements. Nor is it clear if such stockpiles will be counted as part of the normal Foreign Military Sales.

Would MNNA status make it easier for Pakistan to obtain US defence equipment No. Nei-ther Sec 36 of AECA, which deals with the Congressional action necessary for military exports, nor Sec 38 of AECA, which deals with control of arms exports, make any reference to MNNA or any exemptions therein. Therefore, Pak- istans MNNA designation will not add to its access to US military technology and equip-ment. Since the September 2001 sanctions waiver lifting nuclear-related sanctions on India and Pakistan, also wai-ved the amended Pressler san-ctions, in particular those on the sale of F-16s, there are currently no military sanctions on Pakistan. But, Pakistans weak industrial and S&T base will not enable full use of concessions under (iii), (vi) and (vii).

Neither will Pakistans MNNA designation add to its capability to match Indias modernisation programme. In fact, if India increased its defence spending to 3.0% from the current under 2.5%, it would overwhelm any Pakis-tani attempt to counter India.

Would India gain if it were to be declared MNNA Theres no doubt that if Secretary Powell had indicated before his departure to Islamabad that he wanted to declare India as MNNA, his hosts would have asked him not to, this being an election year. Given the fractured nature of Indian polity, including in foreign policy matters, any MNNA designation would have been consi- dered sacrilegious, given the shibboleths of non-alignment.

Many of the exemptions are of little or no relevance for India. These include (i), (ii), (iv), (v) and (vi), while (iii) and (vii) can be made available to India also, even without a formal MNNA status, thanks to recent amendments to relevant sections of US Code. How-ever, lack of exemptions poss- ible under (ix) would be the most serious. India, with its proven competency in satellite fabrication, launches etc is well placed to collaborate with US firms for bidding for such services on a global scale and for its own satellite progra-mmes, though current US ex-port control rules place several hurdles on such efforts. Whe-ther the ongoing US-India high technology initiative will be able to address this issue successfully remains to be seen.

The writer is a freelancer specialising in nuclear-related issues