New Delhi, 20 July-2014, IANS: World Bank group President Jim Yong Kim will be on…
NEW DELHI: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the joint session of the US Congress on June 7, in a major decession to Pakistan the House of Representatives has blocked $450 million aid to the country for failing to take action against the Haqqani terrorist network. At the same time it has granted major concessions to India, putting it at par with other NATO allies, in terms of sale of defence equipment.
Modi will undertake a two-day visit to the US from June 7 during which he will address a Joint Meeting of the US Congress and hold bilateral talks with President Barack Obama to review the progress made in key areas of defence, security and energy. The visit will take place after the PM’s visit to Iran from Sunday, and also a two-day visit to Qatar from June 4.
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday night approved a bipartisan legislation to amend the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA)-2017 aimed at bolstering defence ties with India and bringing it on par with other NATO allies in terms of sale of defence equipment and technology transfer. “The Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State shall jointly, on an annual basis, conduct an assessment of the extent to which India possesses strategic operational capabilities to support military operations of mutual interest between the United States and India,” it said.
The amendments in the Act passed with 277 members voting for it and 147 against, have now made it obligatory on the Obama Administration to certify that Pakistan has met its obligations of acting against the Haqqani network before releasing $450 million in aid. Refusing to comment on the US House of Representatives decession on Islamabad, spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup stated that support and freedom available to terrorist groups in Pakistan including internationally sanctioned groups and individuals have even been corroborated by Pakistani Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah recently.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s amendment added an additional requirement that the Secretary of Defense also certify to Congress that Pakistan is not using its military or any funds or equipment provided by the US to persecute minority groups seeking political or religious freedom.
The NDAA-2017 also includes the sense of the Congress that Shakil Afridi be released forthwith. Afridi, a medical doctor was held on charges of using a CIA-backed vaccine programme to identify Osama bin Laden, before the US raid on his hideout in Abbottabad. The law now needs to be passed by the Senate, before it can be sent to the White House for the US President to sign it into law.
Early this week, the White House had expressed strong objections to several provisions of the bill, including the one related to $450 million in aid to Pakistan. “We share the Committee’s concerns regarding the threat posed to our forces and interests in Afghanistan by the Haqqani Network, and we continue to engage with Pakistan at the highest levels regarding the need for concerted action specifically against the group,” the White House said. However, Congressman Mark Thornberry, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee late on Wednesday night decided to ignore the White House’s objection to this and asked the members of the House to approve these amendments in block, for which no voting took place.
“It is time to end this irrational support that we give to Pakistan,” Rohrabacher demanded on the floor of the House arguing that the US has given more than $30 billion in aid to the country since 2002. “It is only prudent that we increase certification required to release American military or economic aid to Pakistan,” he said.
The developments came ahead of Modi’s visit to Washington on June 7-8. “The main objective of the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister would be to consolidate the progress made in diverse areas such as economy, energy, environment, defence and security, and to intensify cooperation for the future,” a statement by Ministry of External Affairs said. The PM has also been invited by the Speaker of the US House of Representative, Paul Ryan, to address a Joint Meeting of the US Congress which he has accepted, it added. Earlier, PMs Manmohan Singh (July 19, 2005), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (September 14, 2000), P V Narasimha Rao (May 18, 1994) and Rajiv Gandhi (July 13, 1985) had addressed joint meetings of the US Congress. US Congress has been a source of strength for the India-US strategic partnership and the India Congressional Caucus is the largest such group in the US Congress, the MEA said.