Understanding American Foreign Military Sales to Pakistan
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 02 May , 2015

Analysts and academics alike, especially in India, have still to come to terms with the recent announcement of Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Pakistan amounting to 952 Million USD. As per the Defence Security Cooperation Agency press release, dated 6th Apr, this includes 15 Attack Helicopters with a 1000 Hellfire II Anti- Tank Guided Missiles and connected equipment.

…the rationale for such a sale makes little sense since Counter Insurgency operations within the country, and that too in mountainous terrain, require neither the use of attack helicopters nor anti–tank missiles…

The release goes on to say:

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a country vital to U.S. foreign policy and national security goals in South Asia.

This proposed sale of helicopters and weapon systems will provide Pakistan with military capabilities in support of its counterterrorism and counter-insurgency operations in South Asia.

This proposed sale will provide Pakistan with a precision strike, enhanced survivability aircraft that it can operate at high-altitudes. By acquiring this capability, Pakistan will enhance its ability to conduct operations in North Waziristan Agency (NWA), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and other remote and mountainous areas in all-weather, day-and-night environments. Pakistan will have no difficulty absorbing these helicopters into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”[i]

Understandably, the rationale for such a sale makes little sense since Counter Insurgency operations within the country, and that too in mountainous terrain, require neither the use of attack helicopters nor anti–tank missiles, in view of the fact that these are infantry operations against a lightly armed insurgent group that operates from within the civilian population.

…why the US is choosing to ignore Pakistan’s track record and reward it. Could it be for the services rendered to the US in the past or is it a payment for the future?

Moreover, US motivation for such a sale is also difficult to comprehend as they clearly identified Pakistani support and safe havens for the Taliban as the major cause for their defeat and the great cost in men, material and finances that the Taliban inflicted on them and their allies including the Afghan Forces, over 3000 US and allied troops and over 20,000 Afghan Police and military dead as per some estimates.

One leading academic and expert on Pakistan, Dr. Christine Fair, believes that either the U S State Department is still, in her words, “ perennially unwilling to grasp the realities of Pakistan” or “persists with the same strategy it has always used to handle the “Pakistan problem” – namely, attempt to induce better Pakistani comportment through handsome allurements.”[ii]

On the other hand, Indian analysts like Mr. Vikram Sood, a former Secretary of RAW, while subscribing to the ‘reward motive’ appears to see it in a larger context, and as he puts it, believes “ there must be very good reasons why the US is choosing to ignore Pakistan’s track record and reward it. Could it be for the services rendered to the US in the past or is it a payment for the future? This economic and military support to Pakistan could also be an insurance in the futile hope that Islamabad will stay away from Beijing, which is making very strong moves in Afghanistan and Iran.”[iii]

This economic and military support to Pakistan could also be an insurance in the futile hope that Islamabad will stay away from Beijing…

While these factors must certainly have played a part in the US decision making process, among others, it may also be worthwhile to look at this issue from the purely military point of view. In the context that given Indian conventional superiority vis-à-vis Pakistan is indisputable and that the “Cold Start” doctrine has certainly alarmed the Pakistani High Command to seriously consider deployment of tactical nuclear weapons.

All experts agree that such a deployment will have serious consequences on the stability of nuclear deterrence due to command and control and escalatory issues, apart from questions about the physical security of such nuclear assets. While the enhancement of Pakistan’s anti-armour capability with the procurement of state of the art Attack Helicopters and Missiles will not alter the military balance in the region, as the Press Note states, it will certainly give the Pakistani military the capability to delay, if not negate, offensive operations undertaken by Indian forces as envisaged in the doctrine.

More importantly, this may conceivably give the Pakistani High Command added confidence to reconsider the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. If this were to happen, it would certainly be in India’s interest as well since we have never displayed aggressive intent against Pakistan. Could this be the reason why the Government of India has not responded in its usual manner to such a sale?


[i] Defense Security Cooperation Agency News Release

[ii] Fair, Dr. Christine; Groundhog Day in US-Pakistan Relations, in Commentary, 09Apr2015

[iii] Sood, Vikram; India’s Neighbourhood May Soon Get a New Look; Hindustan Times; 28 Apr2015

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Deepak Sinha

is a second generation para trooper and author of “Beyond the Bayonet: Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century.” He is currently a consultant with the Observer Research Foundation.

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6 thoughts on “Understanding American Foreign Military Sales to Pakistan

  1. Its all about economics at all levels. No need to feel sad. Lets be strong ourselves have our foreign and economic policies correct internal security situataion intact develop the sense of calling spade a spade not to live in fools paradise No one can deter India.

  2. No friend of India would do this. No friend of Democracy would do this. No friend of humanity would do this. They could have given one Attack Helicopter and see how and where same is used! Then replace one lost in action in killing terrorists!

  3. Even if Pakistan uses these weapons for counter insurgency and counter terror operations, it will be against the Baloch’s and the TTP. Pakistan will not be using these weapons against the Afghan Taliban nor against other terrorists it is aiding against India. It is foolish on the part of the US to think that Pakistan will counter Afghan Taliban, even after seeing first hand the close relationship between Pakistan military and the Afghan Taliban. The US failed to act against Pakistan even when Osama Bin Laden was found in Abbottabad. The US will pay for its inaction in the future. India being a neighbor of Pakistan will also pay the heavily. Like the US press release said, the weapons sales contribute to US foreign policy and US national security. Meaning, they are out combat operations in Af-Pak region and have outsourced it to Pakistan. This is a dangerous trend, even though it is not new to the region or the US. The US abandoned Afghanistan earlier and it is doing the same again. However the current withdrawal, reflects the downfall of the US military might, unlike the earlier withdrawal. George Bush blundered by going into Iraq without achieving victory in Afghanistan. Obama also blundered by withdrawing majority of the troops from Afghanistan, before achieving any meaningful victory. It will we only a matter of time that the Taliban will regain control of Kabul. This will be either through a peace process sponsored by US between Taliban and the fragile Afghan government led by President Ghani or by a military offensive of Taliban. This will be disastrous for India. Afghanistan, being land locked country, India will not have any direct access to intervene or help. India is placing its bets on Iran by building the Chabar port. However, this will not be sufficient, as Iran is neither close to India nor is dependable. India should consider placing few squadrons of fighter jets and few units of SF. India should also ramp up its intelligence presence to counter Pak.

  4. Chinese are giving weapons to pak Americans are giving weapons to pak> this is actual game> lord of universe play in world> despite all cunning politics of this world most cunning community(Indian upper calls Hindus who are actual ruler of this so called country India)and playing tricky games with world communities against pak>the game of RAW(actuall terrorist organization who taught from altaf hussain to mullah fazul ullah murder, bombing,killing ) has economist news paper of uk write> Pakistan economy is growing even much better then india” Talban about to finish> and altaf hussain(may Allah give his crime against humanity who he done on behalf of indian hinduuos(raw)) now badily in trouble> hehehehehe

  5. Weapons from whichever source, will be used by the purchaser at his choice against his opted target. In 1968, Communist Russia sold weapons to Pakistan, the left controlled employees of all newspapers went on two months strike to prevent adverse publicity against Russia as well as censored Parliamentary proceedings against such sale. The said weapons were used against India in 1971. Now also main stream media is practising black out, because the beneficiary is Pakistan. The media wants to preserve votes of minority in favor of Congress-Commies-Leaguers. Nothing to get surprised because there is no scope for morality in international politics or trans-national business. India must vigorously pursue self interest by purchasing from highest quality weapons from all vendors irrespective of the weeping rants of TV anchors, who have been condemned by the Supreme Court in the cases of Ajmal Kasab and RK Anand.

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