ISLAMABAD, June 23: Pakistan's designation as the Major Non-Nato Ally of the United States makes it eligible for funding to procure explosives detection devices and other counter-terrorism technology , joint counter-terrorism research and development projects under the auspices of the Technical Support Working Group of the Department of State, sources in the US Embassy told Dawn.

Pakistan is also permitted to participate in cooperative research and development programmes with the Department of Defense, these sources said. "The MNNA designation recognizes Pakistan's steadfast resolve in supporting the Global War on Terror and demonstrates the strengthened long-term US-Pakistan relationship," said US Embassy officials here.

US President George W. Bush formally designated Pakistan as a major non-Nato ally last week. Secretary of State Colin Powell had announced the United States' decision to grant Pakistan Major Non-NATO Ally status during his March 18 visit to Pakistan.

According to a US Embassy handout the MNNA designation gives Pakistan eligibility to maintain US-owned War Reserve Stocks in its territory outside of US military installations, allows its firms to bid on contracts for maintenance, repair or overhaul of Department of Defense equipment outside of the continental United States, permits commercial leasing of defence articles with Foreign Military Finance funds, and confers eligibility for loans of defence articles for research and development purposes.

In US policy-making circles it is believed that building closer military cooperation with Pakistan will have a positive impact on regional security and promote stability in South Asia.

US officials here dismiss the notion that granting Pakistan the Major Non-Nato Ally Status could undermine recent progress toward rapprochement between India and Pakistan.

"The United States continues to strongly support the ongoing dialogue between Pakistan and India," they assert, adding that the US relationship with Pakistan is independent of its relationship with India.

"We have important and promising issues on the table with both countries (Pakistan and India). By intensifying our relationships with India and Pakistan on their own merits, we have achieved an unprecedented level of engagement, interaction and influence," maintain sources in the US Embassy, pointing to the ongoing peace process between the two countries.

They say Washington enjoys close cooperation with New Delhi on a broad range of issues, and plans to continue this cooperation with the new Indian government. While the MNNA designation is seen as elevation for Pakistan from being United States' regional ally to an international ally, it is not clear yet whether courtesy this status Pakistan will get the F-16s and other advanced weapons systems like the AWACS and UAVs.

"At first it was an outright 'no' but now it has changed to: 'We will look into it'", sources in the government said when asked about the prospects of procuring such military equipment from the US.

Meanwhile, officials here say the real test of the MNNA designation will be how it impacts on the licensing of defence equipment and how it speeds up the delivery process.

Pakistan is the fifth Muslim country to be given the MNNA status after Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Morocco. Other current Major Non-NATO Allies of the US include Australia, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Argentina, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines.

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