US to give Pakistan unarmed drones’ technology: Gates (Lead)

January 21st, 2010 - 10:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, Jan 21 (IANS) In a major shift in policy, the US said Thursday it would provide drone technology to Pakistan but only for unarmed aircraft - to partly meet a demand this country has been making for over a year.
“Pakistan’s demand for provision of drone technology has been accepted by the US and we are working together with Pakistan Army in this connection,” visiting US Defence Secretary Ribert Gates told a private TV channel here.

“We are considering the provision of planes for intelligence surveillance and unmanned planes to Pakistan. Discussions are under way with the Pakistan military leadership on technical matters in this regard,” he added.

Ever since the drone attacks in the restive North and South Waziristan agencies along the border with Afghanistan began in August 2008, targeting the Taliban, Pakistan has been repeatedly demanding that these either stop or Islamabad be given the technology to build and operate the missile firing machines.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have on more than one occasion made the demand but until now the US has been steadfast in its refusal.

On Thursday too, Pakistani Defence Minister Mukhtar Ahmed made the demand during a meeting with Gates, who arrived here Thursday.

This year alone has seen eight missile strikes by US spy planes. More than 700 people have died in close to 80 drone strikes in Pakistan since August 2008.

Mukhtar handed over Pakistan’s military wish list to the US, demanding the latest weapons and helicopters to enable effective action against terrorists in the country’s tribal areas.

Matters related to Pakistan-US defence relations, the war against terror, regional security, the situation arising out of US drone attacks, the strategic partnership and other matters of mutual interest were discussed during the meeting.

Speaking to Online news agency after the meeting, Mukhtar described it as “very constructive” and said he had told Gates to stop the discriminatory attitude towards Pakistan acquiring civil nuclear technology and that Pakistan should be treated as a strategic partner.

Mukhtar said he had apprised Gates of the negative impacts of the drone attacks in the North and South Waziristan agencies and demanded their immediate end.

According to sources, Gates said that Pakistan was taking serious steps in the war against terror and the US would fulfill Pakistan’s defence needs for this effort.

He said Obama Administration is seriously considering Pakistan’s demands and the matter of a strategic partnership would be reviewed.

Gates arrived here from New Delhi where he said Wednesday said that the terrorists operating in Af-Pak region could provoke a war on the sub-continent.

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