RAWALPINDI, Sept 27: The United States has agreed to enhance Pakistan’s conventional defence capability by making substantial military cooperation with it.

“We have an interest in working together with Pakistan’s armed forces to address Pakistan’s security concerns and help enhance its conventional defence capabilities,” visiting US Undersecretary of Defence, Douglas J. Feith said on Friday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Pakistan’s Defence Secretary, Hamid Nawaz, Mr Feith said Pakistan and the United States had developed a major understanding on vital issues including bringing an improvement to the present alarming security environment in the region.

He termed a 3-day meeting of the Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group (DCG) as very successful and said a number of areas had been identified for enhanced military cooperation between the two countries. He led a 40-member US delegation at the meeting.

The Defence Secretary, Hamid Nawaz, said during the extensive talks, issues concerning acquisition of new military hardware including F-16 aircraft, training and joint exercises were discussed.

“Pakistan has also given a new defence list to purchase US arms and we hope now that not only our previous transactions, which got interrupted, will be cleared but new weapons would also be offered to help improve Pakistan’s conventional defence capabilities,” he added.

“We have communicated our defence list to the Americans,” he said, adding that the US government realized that conventional defence capabilities of Pakistan were needed to be improved,” he further stated.

He told a newsman that the US side had sought to further enhance cooperation to counter terrorism and check infiltration across the border. “Both the countries have developed a very sound basis for future military cooperation,” the defence secretary said, adding that substantial progress had been made to forge new and better military cooperation between the two countries.

Mr Feith said Pakistan had made a very important contribution to make operation “Enduring Freedom” a success. “We have put together a good military relationship to work against terrorism and improve security environment in the region,” he added.

About Pakistan’s defence needs, the US Under Secretary said during the three-day talks this issue along with extending more financial assistance, training and joint exercises came under active discussion.

Asked how the United States could help Pakistan specially when India was getting all possible military cooperation from Russia and Israel and that how his country would like to balance it, he said: “We have reviewed Pakistan’s defence requirements and as I told you that we have an interest in enhancing Pakistan’s conventional defence capabilities as sought by Islamabad,” he replied.

Answering to a question, Mr Feith said from the US point of view Pakistan was exerting itself to effectively deal with Al Qaeda and Taliban. “But we know that border areas of Pakistan with Afghanistan are very difficult terrains. Pakistan and the US made some success but not as much as we like,” he said. However, he appreciated that Pakistan was doing a lot to track down Al Qaeda members. He said necessary support would be provided to Pakistan army and the police to monitor the activities of terrorists. “We have discussed new ideas over the issue”.

At this point Defence Secretary Hamid Nawaz informed newsmen that Pakistan’s forces were engaged on the eastern border due to continued threats from India and therefore it was difficult to commit increased troops to its western borders to hunt Al Qaeda members.

“It is not possible for Pakistan to pay adequate attention on its western borders precisely because of war-like situation with India on eastern border,” he pointed out.

Mr Feith said his country had decided to give all necessary equipment, financial assistance, training and sharing of more intelligence with Pakistan to chase Al Qaeda and other terrorists. “And in this behalf a list of priorities has been prepared,” he said without elaborating.

BORDER STANDOFF: Asked whether the present standoff between India and Pakistan was also discussed, the US official said his country was very much interested in seeing de-escalation between the two nuclear neighbours.

He said tension between India and Pakistan could cause problems for the operation against Al Qaeda and Taliban. “We are interested in seeing that the risk of war between the two countries is diminished. We are interested in creating a better security environment in the region and that is why Pakistan and the United States have decided to work together extensively.”

Elaborating this point, Mr Hamid Nawaz said: “The US government understands that war between India and Pakistan will destroy the efforts of removing terrorism from the region.”

Mr Feith told a reporter that he was not aware of the statement of the US ambassador to India in which he had said that infiltration from Pakistan had increased into Kashmir. However, he said the US was hopeful that Pakistan would ensure that there was no infiltration across the Line of Control.

DEFENCE TIES: Replying to question whether military cooperation between Pakistan and US as existed in the early 1980s would be revived, Mr Feith said a decision had been taken to build a long-term relationship which should be mutually beneficial.

About the release of military hardware to Pakistan, the US Under Secretary said the US policy-decision making was a complex issue due to which things could be delayed for some time.

“We hope to make sure that we are well informed about the views of Pakistan on defence trade,” he said.

STATEMENT:A joint statement was also issued at the end of the 3-day meeting which said that three working groups and their respective committees held result-oriented discussion on the ways and means to strengthen defence cooperation between the two countries. These groups discussed issues about the procurement of US equipment under the Foreign Military Sales Programme, including major weapons systems and related support for those systems, repair/upgrade of existing systems, the issuance of licenses for the import of spares, and the resolution of other outstanding issues.

“Acquisition of US defence stores for improving conventional weapons capabilities were mentioned as key Pakistani priority, as were measures and conditions for a long term, sustainable defence relationship between the two countries.”

“The US agreed to expedite the resolution of pending issues and to provide information to Pakistan on the availability of new weapons and systems as early as possible,” it added.

The key point in the discussion of equipment issues between the two delegations, was the desirability of inter-operability of weapons systems, tactics, techniques, and procedures, to which both countries assigned a high priority, the statement added.

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