President George W. Bush is asking Congress to approve a five-year $3 billion security and development aid package to Pakistan, half of which would go to “defense matters.”
Bush announced his plan while meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at Camp David June 24.
Prior to September 11, 2001, U.S. aid to Pakistan had shriveled considerably in response to Islamabad’s development of nuclear weapons. Yet, since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the White House has elevated Pakistan to the status of a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, leading to a significant increase in both military and economic aid to the South Asian nation. This was Musharraf’s fourth visit to the United States since September 11, 2001.
A senior Bush administration official, however, cautioned that the aid is dependent on whether Pakistan meets the expectations of the White House by countering terrorism and proliferation and enacting democracy. “I’m not calling those conditions, but let’s be realistic; three years down the road, if things are going badly in those areas, [the aid package is] not going to happen,” the official said in a press briefing shortly after Bush and Musharraf’s joint press conference at Camp David.
Concern that Pakistan might be aiding the proliferation of other non-nuclear-weapons states grew this March, when Pakistan’s nuclear weapons laboratory, Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), was sanctioned by the United States for missile-related technology from North Korea. Some press reports suggested that North Korea had traded the missile technology to KRL in exchange for nuclear technology from the laboratory, although the State Department later denied such reports. (See ACT, May 2003.)
The senior official said that Musharraf assured Bush during their private meeting that he fully understood the U.S. view on proliferation, and he had also made a commitment not to have any “military-related” contact with North Korea. Musharraf also reiterated the Pakistani stance that such allegations against KRL were false during a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace the day after his meeting with Bush. He added that Pakistan has “never proliferated,” nor will it ever do so.
The two leaders also discussed relations between Pakistan and India, including Kashmir and a recent peace initiative by Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee. (See ACT, June 2003.) Bush said he “stand[s] by, ready to help” the peace process between India and Pakistan but that, ultimately, “the decision-makers will be the Pakistani government and the Indian government.”
Bush denied Islamabad’s long-standing request for the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, saying that they would not be a part of this aid package. In 1990, Washington halted the delivery of 28 F-16s it had previously promised to Pakistan, citing Islamabad’s inability to meet U.S. requirements that it did not have a “nuclear explosive device.” Pakistan was later reimbursed for the undelivered jets.
The senior official added that the United States is “perfectly willing to consider” upgrading the F-16s Pakistan already possesses but that Pakistan has many other defense needs that need to be met before new F-16 sales are taken up.