Pakistan accused of modifying US missiles in violation of US Arms Control Act


Islamabad, Pakistan- According to a recent New York Times report, Pakistan is being accused by the United States government of illegally modifying American made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets.  Many assume the target of Pakistan is and always has been India, its archrival since independence of both countries from Britain in 1947.

If these allegations are true, they represent a serious breach in trust that the United States has placed in Pakistan in helping it fight the growing militant threat posed by the Taliban and other militant groups inside Pakistan. The US sold Harpoon missiles to Pakistan during the height of the Cold War in the mid 80’s. The Harpoon missiles were designed to be anti-ship missiles capable of striking targets on the sea and it is believed that Pakistan has modifies these missiles to be capable of striking targets on land, a clear indication of its intended use against India in any conflict with Pakistan. The modification of these missiles sold in the 80’s only recently came to light when in April Pakistan carried a discreet test of the new modified missile and was detected by US analysts.

There are also accusations that Pakistan modified the PC-3 aircraft, an anti-submarine aircraft for land attack missions. The government of Pakistan has denied that they modified the Harpoon missile, which would be a clear violation of the US Arms Control Export Act.  

Many experts believe that this modification is not surprising for countries such as Pakistan which depend on foreign military assistance in upgrading its weapons infrastructure due to arms control and bans against them as was the case against Pakistan after it tested nuclear weapons. This is what happens in countries that are dependent on foreign technology,” says Ayesha Siddiqa, a military expert and author of Pakistan’s Arms Procurement and Military Buildup, 1979-99. Siddiqa adds that this is not the first time that Pakistan has been accused of reverse engineering or modification. A U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile that had strayed into Pakistani territory during strikes on al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in August 1998, was recovered intact by Pakistan and is widely believed to have provided the basis for its Babur cruise missile built by Pakistan.

The seriousness of this report cannot be understated as Congress is set to debate a new aid package for Pakistan next month and the report will only make it difficult for the Obama administration to convince Congress to a healthy military and economic package for Pakistan to help fight the Taliban if it is deemed that the funds and technology is being diverted towards a possible confrontation with India.

Despite the obvious threat to Pakistan’s stability by the Taliban, the powerful military brass of Pakistan is certain that India represents the main threat to Pakistan. They are angry at the unresolved dispute of Kashmir and the refusal of the US to help mediate or kick start the stalled peace process between India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir.  Pakistan is also concerned about the rising influence of India inside Afghanistan and also a water conflict with India that is getting worse.

To the military of Pakistan who have been and continue to be the actual holders of power inside Pakistan, despite the ever change in civilian leadership, India is enemy number one and always has been. The war against the Taliban has always been fought in a half hearted manner as the Taliban and the militants were often used by the Pakistan intelligence service as instruments of covert war against India.

The only solution to the problem lies in a durable and lasting peace process between India and Pakistan. This can only be resolved when the issue of Kashmir is solved. Until then, any alleged deception by the Pakistan government towards its benefactor the United States will continue to go on in regards to weapons and money being diverted by the military for preparation in another armed conflict with India.

Pakistan has also been rapidly developing its nuclear arsenal and experts believe it now has 70 to 100 warheads and quickly building more at facilities throughout the country. The missile technology in Pakistan is now capable of striking nuclear warheads deep inside Indian territory.  It is imperative that the peace process be restarted and negotiations reinstated between India and Pakistan before the situation spirals out of control and leads to another war. A conflict between the two nuclear armed border nations with years of hostility will lead to catastrophic results that are a thousand times worse than the Taliban threat to the region and the world.

Peace is far less costly than war and especially when it concerns nuclear powers that are capable and ready to use the deadliest force against one another in the event of a war. The Taliban threat is real and needs to be stamped out in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But an even bigger problem for the region and the world is an increase in tensions between India and Pakistan and there needs to be a focus on treating the disease ( the Kashmir conflict) and not the symptoms (the arms race between India and Pakistan).

India Pakistan Peace Process Derailed Cartoon

  1. What about the number of times the US broke Pakistan’s trust? I support peace too, but we have the right to defend ourselves if an arms race is imposed upon us.

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