The US State Department has approved the sale of military hardware and equipment amounting to a whopping $952 million to Pakistan. According to the certification issued by the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, Pakistan would be provided with AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support. It added, “By acquiring this capability, Pakistan will enhance its ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan, 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.”

The approval comes at a time when certain reports were alleging that Pakistan was looking towards Russia and China for military equipment. Now that the US State Department is playing ball, is it going to impact the proposed deals with Russia and China? Are there any strings attached? Or will Pakistan be free to buy all that it seeks? Where does India stand on this? It might argue, as it has in the past, that the US is upsetting the military balance in the region, but surely, with enhanced cooperation between India and the US and others, Pakistan cannot be expected to watch from the sidelines.

While it is important for Pakistan to enhance its capabilities in view of the insurgency at home, the cost of achieving such cannot be ignored. Spending over Rs100bn of taxpayers’ money is a big decision, and the proposed sale serves as a reminder of the country’s reality. A poor country, which ought to be spending on health, education and human development, remains in pursuit of advanced and expensive military equipment. It could be argued that it is primarily its security situation and regional competition that is guiding this decision. Regardless, it is unfortunate that so much has to be spent on things that destroy rather than on building what is desperately needed.

Another question that should be answered is that whether the approved sale will have any bearing on Pakistan’s possible role in Yemen. While the Saudi Arabia-led coalition launches strikes in Yemen and receives assistance from the US, Pakistan faces a hard choice. So far, the country’s parliament is unanimously opposed to intervening in Yemen. Has the US demanded Pakistan’s involvement like the Kingdom has requested? Will this deal impact the decision? Over the years, Pakistan has bought and received much but its situation has consistently deteriorated. How that trend will change, if at all, remains to be seen.