WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has approved Pakistan's request to buy US-made advance attack helicopters, missiles and other equipment that would strengthen the country's capacity to fight terrorism.Under the Foreign Military Sale programme, the deal costing nearly $1 billion includes AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles.“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a country vital to US foreign policy and national security goals in South Asia,” according to a Defence Security Agency's notification to Congress, which needs to approve any sale. The helicopters and weapon systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counterterrorism and counter-insurgency operations in South Asia, the defence agency noted.“This proposed sale will provide Pakistan with a precision strike, enhanced survivability aircraft that it can operate at high-altitudes. By acquiring this capability, Pakistan will enhance its ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day-and-night environments. Pakistan will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces.Pakistan had requested a possible sale of 15 ah-1z viper attack helicopters, 32 t-700 ge 401c engines (30 installed and 2 spares), 1000 agm-114 r hellfire ii missiles in containers, 36 h-1 technical refresh mission computers, 17 an/aaq-30 target sight systems, 30 629f-23 ultra high frequency/very high frequency communication systems, 19 H-764 embedded global positioning system/inertial navigation systems, 32 helmet mounted display/optimized top owl, 17 APX-117A identification friend or foe, 17 an/aar-47 missile warning systems, 17 an/ale-47 countermeasure dispenser sets, 18 an/apr-39c(v)2 radar warning receivers, 15 joint mission planning systems, and 17 m197 20mm gun systems.Also included are system integration and testing, software development and integration, aircraft ferry, support equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, US government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated cost is $952 million.“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”The principal contractors will be Bell Helicopter, Textron in Fort Worth, Texas; General Electric in Lynn, Massachusetts; The Boeing Company in Huntsville, Alabama; and Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Maryland. Meanwhile, in a reference to Pakistan's close ties with major powers, The Wall Street Journal said that the US defence companies are engaged in a three-way tussle with Russia and China to sell weapons to Pakistan, complicated by the need to avoid upsetting neighbouring India and its even larger arms’ import market.MAJOR POWERS URGED TO FOCUS ATTENTION ON PAKISTAN AFTER IRAN NUCLEAR DEALA leading US newspaper has urged world powers to shift their focus on Pakistan, which it claims has "the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal" -- after the completion of the nuclear deal with Iran."If and when that deal is made final, US and the other major powers that worked on it — China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — should turn their attention to South Asia, a troubled region with growing nuclear risks of its own," The New York Times said in an editorial, without specifying any steps.Entitled 'Nuclear Fears in South Asia', the Times said, "Pakistan, with the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, is unquestionably the biggest concern, one reinforced by several recent developments."Noting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's recent announcement that he had approved a new $5 billion deal to purchase eight diesel-electric submarines from China, which "could be equipped with nuclear missiles," and last month's test-firing of a ballistic missile that "appears capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to any part of India", the paper said that senior adviser Khalid Kidwai, had reaffirmed Pakistan’s determination to continue developing short-range tactical nuclear weapons. "These investments reflect the Pakistani Army’s continuing obsession with India as the enemy, a rationale that allows the Generals to maintain maximum power over the government and demand maximum national resources. Pakistan now has an arsenal of as many as 120 nuclear weapons and is expected to triple that in a decade," the Times said. "An increase of that size makes no sense, especially since India’s nuclear arsenal, estimated at about 110 weapons, is growing more slowly.”The editorial said, "The two countries have a troubled history, having fought four wars since independence in 1947, and deep animosities persist. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has made it clear that Pakistan can expect retaliation if Islamic militants carry out a terrorist attack in India, as happened with the 2008 bombing in Mumbai. But the latest major conflict was in 1999, and since then India, a vibrant democracy, has focused on becoming a regional economic and political power."At the same time, Pakistan has sunk deeper into chaos, threatened by economic collapse, the weakening of political institutions and, most of all, a Taliban insurgency that aims to bring down the State. Advanced military equipment — new submarines, the medium-range Shaheen-III missile with a reported range of upto 1,700 miles, short-range tactical nuclear weapons — are of little use in defending against such threats. The billions of dollars wasted on these systems would be better spent investing in health, education and jobs for Pakistan’s people."Even more troubling, the Pakistani Army has become increasingly dependent on the nuclear arsenal because Pakistan cannot match the size and sophistication of India’s conventional forces. Pakistan has left open the possibility that it could be the first to use nuclear weapons in a confrontation, even one that began with conventional arms. Adding short-range tactical nuclear weapons that can hit their targets quickly compounds the danger."Pakistan is hardly alone in its potential to cause regional instability. China, which considers Pakistan a close ally and India a potential threat, is continuing to build up its nuclear arsenal, now estimated at 250 weapons, while all three countries are moving ahead with plans to deploy nuclear weapons at sea in the Indian Ocean."This is not a situation that can be ignored by the major powers, however, preoccupied they may be by the long negotiations with Iran."

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 08-Apr-2015 here.