Indian Americans seek to stop US missile sale to Pakistan

Wednesday, 27 December 2006, 06:00 Hrs
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Washington: Indian Americans are making a valiant bid to halt the proposed US sale of a billion dollar arms package to Pakistan, including TOW-2A Anti-Armour Guided Missiles and E-2C Hawkeye 2000 Airborne Early Warning system.

Under the rules, the proposed sales will go through Jan 7 unless the US Congress specifically disapproves them within 30 days of being notified by Pentagon Dec 7 - a highly unlikely prospect as the newly elected Congress begins its session only on Jan 4.

TOW-2A missiles, which the Pentagon claimed would "enable Pakistan to support US operations against terrorist activity along its porous borders", could reach $185 million. E-2C HAWKEYE 2000 system for three P-3 aircraft could cost another $855 million.

Undeterred by the near futility of their efforts given that a $5.1 billion dollar deal for F-16 planes went through last July with no more than a Congressional rap on the knuckles, Indian Americans have mounted a campaign to inform the lawmakers about the implication of the missile sale to Pakistan for US national security interests.

Spurred by the US-India Friendship, a voluntary effort of Indian Americans, several US voters of Indian origin have sent e-mails to their elected representatives pointing out that such "a serious decision" has been taken in a sort of legislative vacuum.

The notification was issued Dec 7 - less than two days before the outgoing 109th Congress ended its lame-duck session in the early hours of Dec 9 - and the 30-day notice period expires Jan 6 - just three days after the newly elected 110th Congress takes office on Jan 3.

If it happens, it will take place without Congressional oversight into a sale of high tech and possible dual use military equipment, with serious national security implications, said Hari Iyer urging his area representatives "to ask for a deferment of the sales so that you can perform your constitutionally required duty".

Another Indian American, B K Vasan, warned that even if a small percentage of these weapons fall into the hands of the Taliban, it can wreak havoc against the American and NATO forces.

Manish Thakur said selling Pakistan missiles will send the worst message at this time. For it will not only further encourage Pakistan to tolerate attacks from its territory on US troops, but it "also runs the risk of proliferation of advanced technologies to our enemies."

Jaya Kamlani warned these US supplied arms could be used against India, as was done in 1965 during President Lyndon Johnson's presidency.

Subhash Paradkar suggested use of diplomatic leverage rather than an arms race for "the development of goodwill in the minds of the Pakistani people toward the
United States and India."

However, Indian Americans apparently face an uphill task as the $5.1 billion F-16 deal for Pakistan emerged unscathed from the 30-day congressional review period last July under similar circumstances.

As the deadline for the Congress to block the deal notified by Pentagon ended then, the House of Representatives went into a month long recess without taking up resolutions by two Democratic lawmakers to block it. The issue never came up before the full Senate.

Just a week before the expiry of the deadline, the House committee on international relations upbraided the Bush administration for what it called a calculated move to diminish Congressional authority over the rushed sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, but made no move to block it.

Ranking Democrat Tom Lantos, who is set to take over as the chairman of the panel in the new House and his retiring Republican predecessor Henry Hyde later introduced a bill requiring quarterly updates on possible upcoming arms sales and enforcing a 20-day consultation period before the State Department formally notifies Congress of a proposed sale.

At the hearing John Hillen, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, admitted that the administration had chosen to waive the 20-day pre-notification period without consulting either Hyde or Lantos, but made no move to end what Democrat Brad Sherman called "this charade" of consultations.

He affirmed that the Congress had no means to stop the deal unless both the House and Senate passed resolutions rejecting it before the 30-day review ran out and then override a Bush veto.
Source: IANS
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