Thursday, 6 December 2012

Pakistan, US cement defence cooperation

In a significant development, the United States has expressed willingness to provide Pakistan with another three to four maritime surveillance aircraft, P3C Orion, for the aviation fleet of Pakistani Navy, it has been reliably learnt.
Pakistan has been seeking for more Orion aircraft from US since the destruction of two such aircraft in the terrorist attack on Mehran naval base in Karachi last year.
The US authorities expressed their willingness to oblige Pakistan on this count during the 21st meeting of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group (DCG), which was held in Rawalpindi on December 3-4.
The DCG last met in May 2011 in Washington but its meetings were since not held owing to serious hiccups in bilateral relations that included unilateral raid to kill former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and the NATO attack on Pakistani border post in Mohmand Agency.
The two nations’ delegations in DCG were respectively led by Lt Gen (r) Asif Yasin Malik, secretary for Defence, and Dr James N Miller, US under secretary of defence for policy.
The DCG is the primary Pakistan-US forum for exchanging views and coordinating defence policy with the goal of strengthening cooperation to support each country’s security interests.
“The talks between the senior defence officials were focused on provision of military hardware to Pakistan by the US, especially the requirements in this regard of Pakistani Navy,” an official source privy to the two-day talks said.
He said the US officials had been positive in their response to Pakistan’s demand for the supply of three to four P3C Orion aircraft in the next couple of years, which would boost the country’s naval defence.
Pakistan has currently four P3C Orion aircraft in its naval fleet that include two such planes given to it by the US after the attack on Mehran naval base.
P3C Orion aircraft is designed for surface and underwater reconnaissance and anti-submarine and anti-surface vessel operations. It is rated as the fastest turbo-prop long-range maritime patrol (LRMP) platform used worldwide and is also called the airborne destroyer.
“The provision of three or four more such aircraft would also help increase the counterterrorism capacity of Pakistani Navy,” the source said.

He said another important issue that was discussed during the talks was that of provision of a frigate from the United States for the navy. “This would be an old frigate like the one already provided by the US,” he said.
He said Pakistan was acquiring new naval frigates from China but since that process would take some years to culminate, the frigates from US would cover that time period. A joint statement issued by the Defence Ministry said, “Both delegations welcomed the resumption of bilateral security cooperation and agreed that relations between the two countries should be based on the principles of strategic desirability, political sustainability, trust and mutual respect.”
Both delegations acknowledged that bilateral counterterrorism cooperation had been critical to weakening violent extremists and underscored the importance of continuing cooperation to complete the defeat of al Qaeda and its affiliates in the region, it said.
The two sides affirmed their mutual commitment to a strong defence relationship, which they believed should focus on achieving common objectives. During plenary session, the DCG participants shared their respective assessments of the bilateral relationship and discussed each country’s strategic priorities and agreed on areas for future defence cooperation. Both delegations concluded that the discussions to reopen the NATO-led coalition’s ground supply lines and the resumption of bilateral consultations on regional security were significant achievements over the last six months. The Pakistani delegation provided an update on its military campaign along its western border and the US side detailed the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) activities in Afghanistan, including efforts to transition the lead for security to Afghan forces. “In light of the tragic November 2011 cross-border incident, both sides expressed appreciation for the efforts by their respective militaries to improve operational coordination,” the statement said. “They both expressed their deep appreciation for the sacrifices of all military personnel and civilians in the common fight,” it said. The United States and Pakistan also discussed the importance of the Coalition Support Fund and Security Assistance Programmes and agreed continued consultations on the way forward.

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