Pak Cabinet approves signing of security pact with US

The two countries are keen to maintain the institutional mechanism

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan's ties with the US could not be undermined easily | Reuters Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Pakistan's ties with the US could not be undermined easily | Reuters

Pakistan's Cabinet has quietly approved the signing of a new security pact with the US, a move that indicates a fresh start in defence cooperation after years of distrust between the two nations and may open avenues for Islamabad to get military hardware from Washington, a media report said on Thursday.  

Through a circulation summary, the Cabinet gave its seal of approval to sign the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement, known as the CIS-MOA, between Pakistan and the US, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

However, there was no official announcement from either side about the signing of the agreement. According to the report, Federal Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb was approached but did not respond.

The development comes days after Pakistan and the US agreed to further enhance their bilateral relations, including in the defence field, at a meeting between US Central Command (Centcom) chief General Michael Erik Kurilla and Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir.

CIS-MOA is a foundational agreement that the US signs with its allies and countries with which it wants to maintain close military and defence ties. It also provides legal cover to the US Department of Defence for ensuring the sale of military equipment and hardware to other countries.

The signing of the CIS-MOA means that the two countries are keen to maintain the institutional mechanism. 

The agreement, first signed between the Joint Staff Headquarters of Pakistan and the US Department of Defence in October 2005 for 15 years, expired in 2020. The two sides have now renewed that arrangement which covers joint exercises, operations, training, basing and equipment.

The signing of the CIS-MOA indicates that the US might sell some military hardware to Pakistan in coming years, a source in Washington was quoted as saying in the report.

However, a retired senior Army officer who previously dealt with the US played down the development and said it was not easy for Pakistan to buy military hardware from the US despite this agreement.

Referring to the growing strategic ties between the US and India, the officer said Washington's long-term interests are not aligned with Islamabad. Nevertheless, the US needs Pakistan in some critical regions, and hence this agreement serves the purpose of both, he said.

Pakistan was once a major recipient of military and security assistance from the US, but with the Cold War ending and China challenging US supremacy, things changed.

The situation prompted Washington to seek closer cooperation with India to counter China, and meanwhile, Pakistan lost its decades of significance in the eyes of the US, the report said.

Pakistan and the US maintained close defence cooperation, but their ties came under strain due to differences over the issue of Afghanistan. The killing of former al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US Navy Seals in Pakistan's Abbottabad, close to a military training school in 2011, deteriorated the situation.

In the same year, the US forces bombed a Pakistani military outpost on the Afghan border, killing 24 soldiers and prompting Islamabad to block the land routes used by the allied forces to carry vital supplies to Afghanistan.

The issue was later resolved, but the relations could not escape the shadow of Afghanistan. 

Former US President Donald Trump had repeatedly accused Pakistan of not doing enough to route out militants. He also accused Islamabad of giving nothing to the US other than "lies and deceit" in return for American aid.

Since being elected as US President in 2020, Joe Biden has not formally spoken to the Pakistani leadership.

Things have improved between the two countries since the Shehbaz Sharif-led government took over in April last year, and endorsement of the new pact may be a sign of a fresh beginning, the report said. 

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