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The U.S. sanctions seven Pakistani firms
September 21, 2019
Babur Version 2 land-attack cruise missile. Photo credit: Inter Services Public Relations

The U.S. sanctions seven Pakistani firms

The United States has placed sanctions upon seven Pakistani firms, including three state-owned bureaus engaged in defence development work.

These sanctions were placed because the U.S. government had determined that these “entities [are] acting contrary to the national or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Of the seven firms, the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM) and its branches, Air Weapons Complex (AWC) and Maritime Technology Complex (MTC), are among the sanctioned firms.

Effective 15 December 2016, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has imposed “a license requirement for all items subject to the EAR and a license review policy of presumption of denial.” This is applicable to all items slotted for export, re-export, or transfers to the listed entities.

Notes & Comments:

Besides stating that the listed companies are “acting contrary to the national or foreign policy interests of the United States”, neither the U.S. government or the BIS have stated exactly what the listed companies are engaging in to necessitate the sanctions.

That said, it is worth noting that NESCOM is principally behind Pakistan’s various strategic deterrence programs, such as the country’s particularly controversial ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ work. Although the cause behind the sanctions are not publicly known, the actual outcome is to evidently limit the activities of Pakistan’s strategic weapons development arms.

NESCOM is responsible for Pakistan’s ballistic and cruise missile programs – i.e. the Babur and Ra’ad land-attack cruise missile (LACM) programs. Interestingly, the sanctions were placed well after the fact Pakistan revealed its LACM solutions and, more importantly, their relevance to its nuclear weapons doctrine.

The sanctions could be an indication of the U.S. believing that Pakistan is now actively furthering these programs, be it extending range or adding deployment platforms. The inclusion of MTC in the sanctions list could indicate that Pakistan’s sea-based deterrence efforts are gaining momentum.

The formation of the Naval Strategic Force in 2012 was officially described as a move towards developing a maritime deterrence leg. With China supplying eight new air-independent propulsion (AIP) submarines to the Pakistan Navy, it would not be unreasonable to posit that Pakistan is aiming to configure these new submarines for deploying LACMs.