In an indication of the “positive trajectory” of the bilateral ties, the US has issued a waiver, second in six months, for sale of major defence equipment to Pakistan citing national security interest.
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.
“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,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.
The waiver, issued within a fortnight of Secretary of State John Kerry taking the reins 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 $ 50,000,000 or a total production cost of more than $ 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.
According to a known South Asia expert, the two waivers issued by the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September were sweeping and so allowed the release of all forms of assistance for the fiscal 2012 including nonmilitary.
It seems the main purpose of the February 15 waiver was to create a positive atmosphere for meetings in Washington DC with visiting senior military officials from Pakistan.
“These waivers don’t represent an improvement in US-Pak relations so much as they represent attempts to improve such relations,” an expert explained said adding that from the US perspective, some level of working relations with Pakistan is necessary for the US drawdown from Afghanistan to go smoothly.
Observing that security assistance builds Pakistan’s capabilities in countering terrorism, the State Department 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.