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Pak to get US $ 2.3 billion military aid, as Obama signs bill

October 29, 2009 11:12 IST

US President Barack Obama signed a US $ 680-billion defence budget bill that provides US $ 2.3 billion military assistance to Pakistan with tough conditions to make sure that the funds are not squandered or diverted to affect the "balance of power in the region".

Obama said the Defence Authorisation Bill for 2010 eliminates some of the waste and inefficiency in the defence process that will better protect the nation, troops and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. "The bill includes a commitment to the stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan, expanded programmes to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists, and a reformed system of defence acquisition to save taxpayer money," said House Majority Leader Steny H Hoyer.

The military aid money to Pakistan for the fiscal 2010 as mentioned in the bill has two major components -- US $ 1.6 billion for the Coalition Support Fund and US $ 700 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund. For the US $ 1.6 billion Coalition Support Fund, the bill would require that, before any more such money is spent, the Obama administration must certify that doing so is in the US national interest and will not adversely affect theregion's balance of power. India feels that the American assistance to Pakistan should be more focused on building counter-insurgency capabilities rather than conventional defence equipment which can be diverted for other purposes. 

New Delhi's concerns were acknowledged by the US after former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf last month admitted that American military aid during his tenure had been used to strengthen defences against India. Washington had said it took Musharraf's statement "very seriously". The certification by Obama administration is an indirect and polite way of saying that the money being given by the US to Pakistan – in lieu of the services rendered by the Pakistan Army as part of America's war against terrorism in the region – should not be spent on weapons aimed at India.

Certification too is required for the US $ 700 million Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund; which began in 2009, and is meant to train and equip the Pakistani military to fight insurgents and terrorists on its territory. The bill requires that, before those funds start to flow, the Defense Secretary must certify to the Congress that Pakistan is making "concerted efforts" to fight al-Qaeda andTaliban. The President would have to report to Congress every 180 days on "progress toward long-term security and stability in Pakistan," including the effectiveness of security aid to Pakistan in contributing to the goal of defeating al-Qaeda. The US has insisted that there is no condition imposed on Pakistan under the bill and there are only requirements to be fulfilled by the Obama Administration. Since 9/11 terror attacks in the US, Pakistan has received as aid approximately USD 7.6 billion to fight the "war on terrorism."

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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