The federal cabinet has quietly approved the signing of a security pact with the United States in a significant move that may pave the way for Islamabad procuring military hardware from Washington.
The cabinet through a circulation summary gave its seal of approval to the signing of the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement, known as the CIS-MOA, between Pakistan and the US, official sources confirmed to The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
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 sale of military equipment and hardware to other countries.
However, there was no official announcement from either side about the signing of the CIS-MOA. Federal Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb was approached but she did not respond till the filing of this report.
One cabinet member, who requested not to be identified, confirmed the circulation of the summary on the CIS-MOA but would not say if a majority of the cabinet members gave approval to it.
The signing of the CIS-MOA means that the two countries are keen to maintain the institutional mechanism. The CIS-MOA first was signed between Joint Staff Headquarters of Pakistan and the US Department of Defence in October 2005 for 15 years.
The agreement expired in 2020 but the two sides have now renewed that arrangement that covers joint exercises, operations, training, basing and equipment.
One source in Washington told The Express Tribune that the signing of the CIS-MOA indicated that the US might sell some military hardware to Pakistan in coming years.
However, a retired senior army officer played down the development.
Requesting anonymity, the officer, who previously dealt with the US, said despite this agreement it was not easy for Pakistan to buy military hardware from the US.
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 certain critical areas and hence this agreement serves the purpose of both.
Pakistan once was one of the major recipients of military and security assistance from the US. But things began to change when the cold war ended and China started challenging the supremacy of the US.
The situation prompted Washington to seek closer cooperation with India to counter China. Pakistan, meanwhile, lost its decades of significance in the eyes of the US.
However, the renewal of the CIS-MOA suggests that the US at least does not want to downgrade ties with Pakistan, according to another source.