Pakistan missiles worry US; 47 entities under strict watch | Sunday Observer

Pakistan missiles worry US; 47 entities under strict watch

15 January, 2017
This handout photograph released by Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations on December 11, 2015, shows a Shaheen III surface-to-surface ballistic missile being launched from an undisclosed location in the country.    Pic: AFP

Shaheen-III of particular concern; Trump to follow Obama defence policy on India

The United States government is increasingly worried over the rising range and variety of Islamabad’s missile capability and the recent decision of the Obama administration to impose trade restrictions on seven Pakistani entities came out of this concern, a source familiar with the developments told The Hindu.

The official announcement of the decision did not detail the reasons, but said there was “reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts,” that these entities “have been involved in actions contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”. All the entities are linked to Pakistan’s missile program. With the addition of these seven, there are 47 Pakistani entities that are under strict watch of the U.S agencies.

Shaheen-III the reason

What has triggered the alarm bells in Washington is Shaheen-III, which has a range of 2,750 km. Pakistan has officially explained its longest-range missile to date, tested for the first time in 2015, as a capability to strike the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the farthest Indian territory from its shores. But the missile also has Israel in its range, along with several European countries – something that the U.S. strategic community finds unnerving.

The entities put under trade restrictions by the U.S include the Islamabad-based National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM), and its subsidiaries, Air Weapons Complex (AWC), Maritime Technology Complex (MTC) and New Auto Engineering (NAE).

Speaking at an event on nuclear security, Vice-President Joe Biden alluded to this concern on Wednesday. “Not just North Korea, but Russia, Pakistan, and others have made counterproductive moves that only increase the risk that nuclear weapons could be used in a regional conflict in Europe, South Asia, or East Asia. Working with Congress, the next administration will have to navigate these dangers and - I hope - continue leading the global consensus to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our world.”

The incoming administration will continue with the existing U.S. policies towards India, Pakistan and Asia in general, Defence Secretary-designate James Mattis indicated during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Forces Committee. He complemented Pakistan for its action against terror groups that operate within the country, adding that he would push for more effective targeting of groups that were aimed at neighbouring countries. This is in line with the Obama administration’s efforts in the region.

Mr. Mattis said he would “hesitate to use phrases such as “rebalance” or “pivot” as they imply that we are turning away from our commitments elsewhere,” but added that “China’s behavior has led countries in the region to look for stronger U.S. leadership. “If confirmed, I will examine ways to strengthen our allies and partners, while taking a careful look at our own military capabilities in the region,” he said.

Mr. Mattis also pledged to continue with the Obama policy of enhancing a long-term strategic relationship with India “based on the convergence of our interests and our shared democratic values.” “I note that the United States and India recently cemented India’s status as a Major Defence Partner. If confirmed, I would assess what particular areas in the bilateral security relationship I should focus on, and what steps can be taken to bolster the overall defence relationship.”

‘We will work with Pakistan’

Naming sanctuary and freedom of movement for the Afghan Taliban and associated militant networks inside Pakistani territory as “a key operational issue faced by the Afghan security force,” Mr. Mattis, who has commanded the U.S forces in Afghanistan, said he would work with Pakistan to improve the situation.

“Our relationship with Pakistan, including our military-to-military relationship, has had highs and lows. We have long faced a lack of trust within the Pakistani military and government about our goals in the region. If confirmed, I will work to build the trust that we need for an effective partnership,” he told the Senate Committee.

- The Hindu