US bill links Pakistan aid to not backing anti-India activities

Washington, April 30 (Inditop) An influential US lawmaker plans to co-sponsor a bill that would link US economic assistance to Pakistan to Islamabad’s pledge not to support anti-India activities.

The bill strikes a good balance between providing military aid to Pakistan while remaining sensitive to concerns by India about the kind of military hardware that would be available, said Democrat Jim McDermott, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, announcing his intent.

For instance, McDermott said Wednesday the bill restricts Pakistan from buying additional F-16s beyond those already contracted for: “I agree with India’s concerns that new F-16s could pose a threat and they aren’t very useful for counter-insurgency.”

Called the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2009, or the PEACE Act, the bill was introduced April 2 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman. It seeks to provide $1.5 billion of annual assistance to Pakistan for a period of five years.

The bill providing for a threefold increase in US economic assistance to Pakistan would require Islamabad to undertake not to support any person or group involved in activities meant to hurt India and to allow US investigators access to individuals suspected of engaging in nuclear proliferation.

Meanwhile, US military officials Wednesday appealed for more flexibility in proposed legislation that would greatly increase economic and military aid to Pakistan.

Officials appearing before the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee emphasized the fragility of the situation in Pakistan and urged lawmakers to trust the US military to hold itself and Pakistan accountable for progress, rather than set rigid conditions.

Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy reflected heightened concern in the US military establishment about Pakistan’s ability to deal effectively with an intensifying insurgency.

Amid what she called a “deteriorating situation,” Flournoy said many Pakistani civilians and political leaders fear violent retaliation if they openly oppose extremist groups.

All of this, she said, underscores the urgency of enabling the Obama administration to proceed with the initial steps of its plan to strengthen the US-Pakistan partnership.

Flournoy conceded that forging an effective partnership between the two militaries hasn’t always been straightforward.

For too long, she said, Pakistan has eyed India – rather than militants within its own borders – as its biggest threat, and has focused its resources accordingly.

There’s also been a “trust deficit” between the two countries, she said, that needs to be put behind as Pakistan and the United States recognise they share common interests.