March 18, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The United States will designate Pakistan a major non-NATO ally in a move that will significantly enhance military co-operation between the two countries and make it easier for the country to acquire U.S. arms.
The step, an apparent reward for Pakistan
's support of the global war on terrorism, comes despite U.S. unease about nuclear proliferation.
Other countries that hold the coveted status include Japan, Australia, Israel
, Kuwait, South Korea
, New Zealand
, Argentina, Bahrain
, the Philippines and Thailand
. They are all eligible for priority delivery of defence material and the purchase, for instance, of depleted uranium anti-tank rounds.
They can stockpile US military hardware, participate in defence research and development programmes, and benefit from a US government loan guarantee programme, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports.
However, the designation does not afford them the same mutual defence guarantees enjoyed by members of NATO
It was not immediately clear if Pakistan's prospective new designation would lead to the handover of the F-16s.
Many in Pakistan have not forgiven United States for refusing to deliver 28 F-16 fighters in the 1990s because of worry over Pakistan's nuclear program. The planes had been paid for, but it took eight years for the money to be refunded.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that no decision has been made with regard to any particular military package, especially F-16s.