WASHINGTON, June 16 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush designated Pakistan a major non-NATO ally of the United States Wednesday.
A major non-NATO ally is exempted from the suspension of U.S. military assistance and qualifies to receive surplus defense material from U.S. stockpiles.
"Consistent with the authority vested in me by section 517 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 ... I hereby designate the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally of the United States," Bush said.
In a brief statement issued in Tampa, Florida, where he is visiting U.S. troops, Bush authorized his secretary of state, Colin Powell, to "publish this determination in the Federal Register."
It was Powell who first announced the Bush administration's intention to make Pakistan a major non-NATO ally during a visit to Islamabad on March 18.
"I advised the foreign minister this morning that we will also be making a notification to our Congress that will designate Pakistan as a 'major non-NATO ally' for the purposes of our future military to military relations," Powell told a press conference after meeting his counterpart Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
"Major non-NATO allies are exempt from suspension of military assistance under the American Service members' Protection Act," State Department's deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told a recent briefing in Washington.
"There are a number of other benefits too," said Ereli. "These include having U.S.-owned war reserve stockpiles on its territory outside of U.S. installations, entering certain cooperative training agreements with the United States, and eligibility for expedited processing of export licenses of commercial satellites."
Late last month, the U.S. Congress endorsed the Bush administration's proposal and sent it back to the White House for further action. The approval completed the legal procedure needed to declare Pakistan a non-NATO ally, enabling President Bush to announce the designation. The Bush administration had sent the required 30-day notice to Congress in late April.
Pakistan became a close U.S. ally after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington when President Pervez Musharraf joined the U.S.-led "war against terror" and provided logistic support to U.S. forces for operations against the Taliban regime.
The declaration indicates the failure of the Indian lobby in Washington that was trying to block the Bush administration's move to designate Pakistan a non-NATO ally.
Last month, Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-NY, demanded during a congressional hearing that the designation should be delayed until President Bush has determined whether Pakistan qualified for nuclear-related sanctions.
Ackerman and some other lawmakers are still campaigning for re-imposing sanctions on Pakistan under the Symington and Glenn amendments.
The United States had imposed strict sanctions on both India and Pakistan after they tested their nuclear devices in May 1998. The sanctions were, however, removed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Symington and Glenn are among the strictest sanctions in the U.S. arsenal. Imposing them can almost completely stop all major economic and military assistance to Pakistan.
The move to seek the re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions on Pakistan started in February when Dr. A.Q. Khan confessed to heading a network of nuclear proliferators that sold nuclear technology and secrets to countries like Iran, Libya and North Korea.
But as the State Department's response shows, imposing such sanctions on Pakistan has become much more difficult after its designation as a non-NATO major ally.
At a recent congressional debate, John R. Bolton, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, declared that it was "entirely appropriate to declare Pakistan a major non-NATO ally" despite the reported involvement of some Pakistani scientists in nuclear proliferation.
So far, the Bush administration has effectively resisted moves to reintroduce nuclear-related sanctions on Pakistan. The administration insists that it were individual scientists, and not the Pakistan government, who indulged in proliferation, and therefore, there is no need to re-impose the sanctions.