US issues fresh waiver for defence equipment sale to Pakistan

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Washington, Apr 5 (PTI): For the second time in six months, the US has issued a waiver for sale of major defence equipment to Pakistan, likely to be worth over USD 2 billion, citing national security interests.

The waiver issued quietly by the then Deputy Secretary of States Thomas Nides on February 15 and posted on the State Department website a week later on February 22, would pave the way for some major defence equipment sales to Pakistan.

In September last year, the US had waived conditions that would have halted USD 2 billion in aid to Pakistan, which was slammed for not making progress in fighting terrorism. Pakistan has received USD 7.9 billion worth of military equipment from the US since 2001.

A State Department spokesperson said, “The Department issued the waiver because we have determined that security assistance is important to the national security interests of the United States and is a critical component of US efforts to continue to build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan grounded in concrete action on areas of shared interest.”

The waiver, issued within a fortnight of Secretary of State John Kerry taking the reins of US diplomacy on February 1, allows for the execution of America’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme, and for the sale or export of certain Major Defence Equipment (MDE).

“Major Defence Equipment,” means any US manufactured defence article whose export is controlled by US Munitions List which has a nonrecurring research and development cost of more than USD 50,000,000 or a total production cost of more than USD 200,000,000. These items require Congressional notification, the spokesman said.

“As a matter of policy we do not discuss proposed defence sales or transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress,” he said, refraining to give any figure to the expected sale of major defence items to Pakistan after this waiver.

In July, 2011, the Obama administration had decided to suspend USD 800 million in aid to the Pakistan’s military signalling a tougher US line. Washington had made it clear soon thereafter that it will not lift the hold on its military aid to Pakistan, reiterating that Islamabad needs to takes steps in the war against terror.

Observing that security assistance builds Pakistan’s capabilities in countering terrorism, the official said that such assistance will continue to be implemented consistent with its policy goals of supporting Pakistan’s shared interest in regional stability and countering terrorism.

“Despite the past challenges in our bilateral relationship with Pakistan, we are encouraged by recent engagements which indicate the positive trajectory of the relationship, including productive working group meetings addressing the full range of the relationship and Pakistan’s participation in Core Group meetings with Afghanistan,” the spokesperson said.

“As we have said, our number one shared priority remains pursuing our counter-terrorism objectives to secure the safety of American and Pakistani citizens. We face a common threat from a common enemy, and we must confront terrorism and extremism together,” the official asserted.

In a two-paragraph notice to US exporters posted on the website February 22, the Directorate of Defence Trade Controls of the State Department said Section 203 of the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-73), which is more popular as Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, prohibits for fiscal years 2012-2014 the issuance of export licenses for major defence equipment to be exported to Pakistan absent an appropriate certification or waiver under Section 203 in the fiscal year.

“On February 15, 2013, Deputy Secretary Thomas Nides signed a waiver of these prohibitions for the current fiscal year. DDTC is now reviewing all license applications for the export to Pakistan of defence articles, including major defence equipment, on a case-by-case basis,” said the notification.

Under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill the US can’t approve sale of major defence equipment to Pakistan unless the Secretary of State either gives a waiver under national security interests or certifies that Pakistan is continuing to cooperate US to dismantle supplier networks relating to the acquisition of nuclear weapons-related materials, and has demonstrated a sustained commitment to and is making significant efforts towards combating terrorist groups.

The bill requires the Secretary of State to certify that Pakistan is taking steps to prevent al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated terrorist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, from operating on its soil, including carrying out cross-border attacks into neighboring countries.

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