Pakistan denies it altered US-made missiles

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan rejected accusations its army illegally modified American-made missiles to increase its land-strike capability, denying that it reconfigured anti-ship weapons in a way that could target India.

The denial was in response to a news report that the Obama administration made a diplomatic protest to Pakistan’s prime minister over the alleged alterations to the anti-ship missiles Islamabad bought in the 1980s.

A statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that it ‘categorically rejected’ the article in The New York Times saying that Harpoon anti-ship missiles had been modified and that they could pose a potential threat to India.

The newspaper cited senior Obama administration and congressional officials as saying the allegation first surfaced in June in an unpublicised diplomatic protest to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The Harpoon missiles were sold to Pakistan by the Reagan administration decades ago as defensive weapons.

US military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the missiles in a manner that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act, the paper said.

According to the report, US intelligence agencies detected on April 23 a suspicious missile test that appeared to indicate that Pakistan had a new offensive weapon.

The missile would be a significant new entry into Pakistan’s arsenal against India, the NYT said. It would enable Pakistan’s navy to strike targets on land, complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed.

The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying US-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of US law that the administration of President Barack Obama has protested, the report said.—Agencies

Our Correspondent in Washington adds: Pakistan’s Ambassador Hussain Haqqani termed the NYT report baseless and incorrect.

Talking to Dawn, he said such reports were designed to target and scuttle the US Congress’ lawmaking process under way for sanctioning aid to Pakistan and were based on ‘erroneous intelligence’.

The missiles that the NYT report refers to “cannot be modified” and Pakistan had not tampered with them, he added.

Ambassador Haqqani urged the US media to halt hurling blames on Pakistan as this did not help the fight against the extremists that the United States and Pakistan were jointly fighting.

Such unfortunate allegations, however, would not deter Pakistan from continuing to align with the US in this war.

The accusation comes at a particularly delicate time, when the administration is asking Congress to approve $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next five years.

‘We will make sure that the US understands the correct picture and we will fight back periodic efforts to falsely blame Pakistan, which remains a critical US ally in fighting terrorism,’ Mr Haqqani said.

‘Instead of false accusations, US media should help Pakistan secure the help it needs to fight our common enemy, viz terrorism.’

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