US Taking Illegal Modification of Harpoon Missiles by Pak ‘Very Serious’

Despite Islamabad’s consent to “mutual inspections”, the US is taking “very seriously” the reported illegal modifications made by Pakistan in the American-made Harpoon anti-ship missile to enhance capabilities to strike land targets, a potential threat to India.

In response to a news report published about the illegal modification in leading American daily ‘The New York Times’, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs PJ Crowley said: “This is something that we take very seriously. We have raised the issue with the Pakistani Government. The (Pak) Government has responded with an agreement in principle for mutually agreed inspections.”

‘The New York Times’ in its news report published on August 30 had quoted an unnamed American official as saying that the US has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying the Harpoon anti-ship missile to amplify its capacity to strike land targets, a potential threat to India.

Between 1985 and 1988 the Ronald Reagan administration delivered 165 Harpoon missiles to Pakistan.

“In this particular case, we have some concerns. We shared them with the Government of Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan has been responsive,” Crowley said.

“We would wait and see if those inspections can address the concerns that we have raised,” he said.

Moreover, the US has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land attack missions. Both the modifications form infringement of the American law, including the Arms Control Export Act.

“I am not going to talk about specific issues, brought up in the story. We watch this closely. These are important agreements. This is not about any one country. With any country with which we exchange our defence articles, we have this kind of agreement,” Crowley said.

“When we have concerns about how those systems should be used, we raise these concerns with the appropriate governments,” he noted.

The American intelligence agencies had first noted the violation by Pakistan on April 23, said ‘The New York Times’, when Pakistan had tested a missile secretly, that appeared to give the country a new offensive weapon. However, Pakistan has denied all those charges.

The modified version of the missile would be a significant new entry into Pakistan’s arsenal against India as these would enable its small navy to strike targets on land in India, this complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed.

Since early this year, when the Obama Administration had proposed to triple the non-military aid and also increase its military assistance to Pakistan, a number of US lawmakers have been making similar charges against Pakistan and demanding that any military aid to the country should be conditional.

The Congress is in the final stages of taking a decision on providing USD 7.5 billion in civilian aid to Pakistan. The latest expose has the potential to “derail” this, the daily said.

Crowley said the Administration is keeping the Congress full informed on this issue. When asked if this would have any impact on the future of US aid to Pakistan, he said:

“I would like to take one step at a time. We have raised some concerns. It has been done at the highest levels over lengthy period of time. As we gain more facts, will understand its potential implications.”

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