A day after the influential New York Times termed nuclear-armed Pakistan as ''undoubtedly the biggest concern'' for stability in South Asia, the US State Department has apparently approved that country's request for $1 billion worth of military hardware and equipment.
According to the Dawn, the US continues to identify Pakistan as a country of vital importance for US foreign policy and national interests. The leading Pakistani newspaper cited diplomatic sources in Washington to say the request has been virtually approved.
Pakistan had submitted its request last year, stating that the weapons were needed for fighting insurgents in the country's mountainous regions. The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale.
''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,'' the certification said.
''This proposed sale of helicopters and weapon systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in South Asia,'' it added.
The agency informed US lawmakers that this proposed sale would 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, 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 certification said.
The agency also assured US lawmakers that the proposed sale ''will not alter the basic military balance in the region''.
It informed Congress that the State Department had approved this possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for AH-1Z Viper Attack Helicopters and AGM-114R Hellfire II Missiles and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $952 million.
The notification said the government of 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 Counter-measure 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 programme support.
The agency informed Congress that implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple trips by US government and contractor representatives to participate in programme and technical reviews, as well as training and maintenance support in the country for a period of 66 months.
It will also require three contractor representatives to reside in the country for a period of three years to support this programme.
''There will be no adverse impact on US defence readiness as a result of this proposed sale,'' the certification said.
''The State Department approved a possible foreign military sale to Pakistan for helicopters and associated equipment, parts and support for an estimated cost of $952 million,'' a State Department official told Dawn.
''This proposed sale of helicopters and weapon systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations,'' the official said.