US defends its new military aid to "strategic partner" Pakistan

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Washington, Oct 24 (ANI): The United States has defended the new 2.29 billion-dollar military aid package to Pakistan, saying it is in their 'mutual interest,' and the South Asian country is an important "strategic partner" in its counter-insurgency operations.

"We are supporting the Pakistan military because it is in our mutual interest to do so. Pakistan is a strategic partner," The News quoted US State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley, as saying at the regular briefing, in response to questions from Indian journalists voicing New Delhi's concerns over the move.

"It's a vitally important partner in counterinsurgency operations and counterterrorism activities, and it is in our national interest to continue to support Pakistan," he added.

Pressed further on the military aid package, the spokesman said it is for the benefit of Pakistan and the United States, "and we think it benefits the region as a whole. We want to see a secure, stable, peaceful region. It is in our interest expressly because there are extremists in the region that threaten countries there and countries here in the West."

"We want to see a continuation of the kind of determined effort that Pakistan has shown over the past year or so, and what we're seeing here is an investment in the very capabilities that we believe can help Pakistan continue to carry out its counterinsurgency responsibilities," he added.

When asked whether there were any safeguards in the aid package to prevent Pakistan from diverting money for counter-insurgency purposes, Crowley said, "Well, all countries are sovereign, but by the same token, we've tailored this package we believe to improve training and equipping that is focused on our counterinsurgency programmes."

He also maintained that US ties with Pakistan do not come at the expense of India and vice-versa. "This is a subject (India's concerns about US military assistance to Pakistan) that comes up in all of our discussions with high-level Indian officials. It comes up in all of our discussions with high-level Pakistani officials," Crowley said. (ANI)

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