Pak in talks with US to get six surveillance drones

Pak is still negotiating a deal with US to acquire a fleet of surveillance drones, a media report said.

Updated: Jan 07, 2011, 18:34 PM IST

Islamabad: Amidst differences between
Pakistan and the US over the supply of armed drones, a media
report today said Islamabad is still negotiating a deal with
Washington to acquire a fleet of surveillance drones.

Pakistan hopes to get six surveillance drone systems,
diplomatic sources told the Dawn newspaper.

The two countries are holding negotiations on the
unarmed Shadow-200 system that is used by the US Navy and the
Marine Corps.

Pakistan originally wanted weapon-carrying drones but
the US turned down the request, saying it had not shared this
technology with any other country.

The sources said Pakistan is still demanding "regular
drones with onboard weapons and longer surveillance range".

Earlier reports from Washington had said that Pakistan
had complained about exorbitant prices for the US drone and a
prolonged delivery schedule.

The Pakistani side claimed the Americans had quoted a
price that was much higher than the market rate.

The friction over the drones comes at a time when
relations between the US and Pakistan have dipped to a new low
following the withdrawal of the CIA station chief in Islamabad
after he was named in the media.

Some reports have suggested the CIA official`s name
was leaked by Pakistani security agencies after the current
and former Inter-Services Intelligence agency chiefs were
named in a lawsuit filed in the US by relatives of Jewish
victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

A Shadow-200 system includes a ground station and four
drones and costs about USD 40 million. The US would take about
36 to 48 months to deliver one system to Pakistan.

The money for the drones will come from either the
Pakistan Counter-Insurgency Fund or the Foreign Military
Finances. Pakistan is working out details for purchasing six
Shadow-200 systems.

Pakistani negotiators, while complaining about the
long delivery wait, said they realised that procedures
involved did not allow speedy delivery.

"There`s need for Congressional approvals, then there
is a cumbersome contracting system and legal wrangles involved
in the approval of funds," a diplomatic source told the Dawn.

Though the US has offered to sell the Shadow drones,
Pakistan has been insisting that drone technology should be
transferred to it.

Pakistani leaders have said that this will enable the
country`s military to carry out drone attacks in the restive
tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistani leaders claim US drone attacks in the tribal
belt are counter-productive and a violation of the country’s
sovereignty though observers believe the two sides have a
tacit understanding on the missile strikes.