The U.S. announcement that it is considering providing Pakistan a dozen unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance has received a less than warm reception here, with one report saying the military was unimpressed. Pakistan has for months been demanding that the U.S. must transfer to its military the drones themselves or the technology for these unmanned aircraft used by the CIA to bomb targets in the tribal areas.
Not a single of these missile strikes has been acknowledged by the U.S., but what is clear is that they are being carried out with a fair degree of accuracy and precision to destroy militant bases in North and South Waziristan.
Beithullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, was a drone casualty, and in recent days, his successor Hakimullah Mehsud, is reported to have had a narrow escape in a similar attack. The government and military are widely believed to be co-operating in the missile strikes, but officially, their position is that the bombings must stop as they are an infringement of Pakistan’s sovereignty, that many innocents lives have been lost along with the few militants that have been taken out, and that this is only helping the extremists recruit more people into their ranks.
The drones are an important reason for the widespread anti-Americanism in Pakistan. It has been argued that if the Pakistani military were entrusted with carrying out the strikes with the same aircraft, there would be much less resentment.
However, the U.S. is not giving Pakistan the Reapers or the Predators, which are the attack drones. U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates told journalists here that the Obama Administration is considering providing 12 RQ-7 Shadow drones along with equipment and training.
These are surveillance-only aircraft, and for Pakistan, do not quite cut it. Quoting sources, The News said the military was “not impressed” with the offer.
Contacted by The Hindu, military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas was circumspect. He said no formal offer had yet been made to Pakistan over the drones.
“Unless an official offer is made, it is premature to comment,” he said.
Pakistan has its own surveillance drones, and if there is a formal offer for UAVs from the U.S., he said, “obviously, it has to be an improvement, it has to be new, more effective and improve combat efficiency”.
New Delhi has not reacted yet to Mr. Gates announcement on the Shadow drones. Asked if India should be concerned that Pakistan may soon get these aircraft, Major-General Abbas said the question was outside his remit. But he provided an indirect response. “If [India and Pakistan] talk about each other rather than talk to each other, it is sure recipe for conflict.”