US Democrat lawmaker slams arms supplies to Pakistan

September 14th, 2008 - 10:52 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16New York, Sep 14 (IANS) With the US pushing through a broad range of foreign weapons deals to countries in the East, a leading Democrat has criticised the Bush administration’s arms sale policy because arming Pakistan was doing more to stoke tension with rival India than combat terrorism, the New York Times has reported.Pushed by White House, the administration seeks to re-arm Iraq and Afghanistan, contain North Korea and Iran and solidify ties with onetime Russian allies, the paper said.

The Times quoted Howard L. Berman of California, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who sponsored a May bill to overhaul the arms export process, as saying that American military sales, while often well-intended, were sometimes misguided. He cited military sales to Pakistan, which he said he feared were doing more to increase tension with India than combat terrorism in the region.

Recently, Berman and Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, moved to suspend the release of almost $230 million in counter-terrorism funds by the Bush Administration for upgrading Pakistan’s ageing F-16 fighter-jets. They asked the Bush administration not to shift the aid to the Pakistan military as they feared the plan would hamper efforts to stop terrorism and that they needed more time to study it.

Perhaps hinting at perils of arms supplies to Pakistan, Travis Sharp, a military policy analyst at the Centre for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington, told the Times that if alliances shifted, the US might eventually be in combat against an enemy equipped with US-made weapons.

Arms sales have had unintended consequences before, as when the US armed militants fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, only to eventually confront hostile Taliban fighters armed with the same weapons.

“Once you sell arms to another country, you lose control over how they are used,” Sharp said. “And the weapons, unfortunately, don’t have an expiration date.”

But Bruce S. Lemkin, of the Pentagon, defended the arms sales, arguing that with so many countries now willing to sell advanced weapons systems, the US could not afford to be too restrictive in its own sales, the Times said.

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