M A I N   N E W S

India objects to US making Pak ‘major ally’
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 20
The Government of India today handed out a diplomatically-coated warning to Washington, saying that the George Bush administration’s decision to designate Pakistan as a “major non-NATO ally” had “significant implications” for Indo-US relations.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) today came out with its much-awaited reaction to US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s March 18 statement in Islamabad announcing Washington’s decision to designate Pakistan as a “major non-NATO ally” (MNNA). The MEA said it was “disappointing” that Mr Powell did not share this information with New Delhi.

“We have seen the statement made in Islamabad by the US Secretary of State on March 18 on a prospective notification to the US Congress to designate Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally for the purposes of military-to-military relations.

“The Secretary of State was in India just two days before this statement was made in Islamabad. While he was in India, there was much emphasis on India-US strategic partnership. It is disappointing that he did not share with us this decision of the US Government.

“We are studying the details of this decision, which has significant implications for India-US relations. We are in touch with the US Government in this regard,” MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna said in a hard-hitting statement.

Sources said the Government of India’s reaction, though it came some 48 hours after Mr Powell’s statement, was New Delhi’s diplomatic hard talk which conveyed a lot. It is particularly disquieting for New Delhi that the Bush administration has decided to reward a country with the MNNA status whose nuclear programme’s chief architect, Dr A. Q. Khan, had himself admitted his role in nuclear proliferation.

However, on another brief but significant comment from Mr Powell that the US Government was interested in having “the same relationship” with India, sources said the Government of India was “clueless” as to what Mr Powell meant.

Mr Powell had said in Islamabad on March 18: “Major non-NATO ally status (to Pakistan) was something we have been working on for months and months and months and months... It is not a reward for A. Q. Khan, it’s part of a continuing relationship and we have been doing things to demonstrate to the Pakistanis that we are good, solid, long-term partners. The same relationship we want to have with India.”

It is the last line of the above statement that is baffling for New Delhi. One, because nothing of this sort was mentioned by Mr Powell during his talks with the Indian leadership here earlier this week. Secondly, because Washington is well aware of New Delhi’s anathema for the word “ally”.

From the Indian point of view, some questions remain to be answered by the USA in context of the MNNA controversy.

Mr Powell described the proposed MNNA status to Pakistan as “a normal relationship we have with countries that we have military-to-military relationships with”. How can the USA sell military hardware, technology, weapon systems and fighter aircraft like F-16s to Pakistan while having a “strategic partnership” with “natural ally” — India— knowing fully well that these weapons are meant to be used against India only?

The Bush administration has obviously given this election-year lollypop to Pakistan with its attention focussed on the world’s most wanted man — Osama bin Laden — on whose head the reward money is being doubled from $ 25 million to $ 50 million. Does the USA have any answer to former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s famous statement that Bin Laden was the “life insurance policy” of Gen Pervez Musharraf, implying that the Pakistani President would never let Americans capture Bin Laden? 

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