The illegal modifications in the anti-ship Harpoon missiles is a provocative and destabilising action by Islamabad and threatens the "delicate" India-Pakistan ties, an influential US lawmaker has said.
"If (recent media reports are) true, the modification of these missiles would be a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. In addition, this would be yet another provocative and destabilising action which threatens the delicate relationship between India and Pakistan," Congressman Edward Markey has said.
Amidst reports appearing in the US media which have been confirmed by the US Administration that Pakistan has illegally modified the American-made Harpoon missiles to expand its strike capability, Markey has written a letter to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing his concerns.
Though Islamabad has denied the charges, the US has said that it has entered into an agreement with Pakistan for a mutually agreed inspection of the missiles in question. Markey, founder of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, in a letter to Clinton sought information on published reports that Pakistan may have illegally modified US-exported Harpoon missiles to give them a land-attack capability.
"The nascent nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan is extraordinarily worrisome, as both countries appear to be increasing their ability to manufacture weapons," Markey wrote in the letter.
In 2006, Markey introduced the HR 5902 bill to stop the Bush administration from selling 36 advanced F-16 fighter jets and related weaponry to Pakistan unless the country halted its construction of new nuclear reactors.
Urging Clinton that the US must discourage development of offensive weaponry such as the alleged modifications of Harpoon, Markey in his letter to Clinton sought answers to a number of questions.
"Did the United States government lodge a protest or otherwise communicate, either formally or informally, with the government of Pakistan regarding that country's US-exported Harpoon missiles?
"If so, what was the content of that protest?" Markey asked. "Has Pakistan, as reported, allowed American officials to inspect Pakistans Harpoon inventory to determine if modifications have been made? If so, has that inspection taken place? Were all of the Harpoon missiles exported by the United States to Pakistan inspected? Were any modifications made to the missiles?" he asked.
"Does the Department of State believe that the Harpoon missiles in Pakistan's inventory can be armed with nuclear warheads? Does the Department of State believe that Pakistan has armed or intends to arm any of its Harpoon missiles with nuclear warheads?" Markey asked.
Finally, he asked if the State Department believed that Pakistan had violated its commitments under the Harpoon export licences? "What repercussions are stipulated by the Arms Export Control Act in such a case?" he asked.