F-16 Sweetner! Suspicious US flirts with Pakistan yet again
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Issue Courtesy: | Date : 19 Mar , 2016

Over the years, the US has been found vacillating in its approach towards Pakistan. The US’ public posturing does not match with its actions. Its decision to sell $700 million F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan has not only riled India but divided members of the US’ Congress as well.  The lame duck President Barack Obama administration’s decision to go ahead with the proposed sale despite lawmakers’ concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation programme and its not-so-convincing commitment against the war on terrorism defies all logic.

President Obama alone cannot be faulted as his predecessors also followed the same ambivalent and ambiguous policies towards Pakistan. Slam Pakistan to please India and then pamper it with billions of dollars in cash and military equipment is how one can sum up the policy of Washington.

On December 22, 2008, the then Pakistani National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani was summoned to Washington and was told tersely that its “shifty and shifting position on the Mumbai attacks” was unacceptable. And just a week before Durrani got the dressing down, the then US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations said “you (Pakistan) need to deal with the terrorism problem. And it’s not enough to say these are non-state actors. If they’re operating from Pakistan, then they have to be dealt with,” referring to Pakistan’s failure to arrest those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

Has Pakistan dealt with the problem of terrorism? Has it withdrawn its support to the non-state actors? On the contrary, the so-called non-state actors have carried out several daring attacks on India and Afghanistan with active support from Pakistan’s military and its intelligence agency.  Pakistan itself has brazenly admitted its support to militant groups fighting its proxy war in Kashmir.

In October 2010, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf told the German magazine, “Der Spiegel,” that his forces trained militant groups to fight in Indian- administered Kashmir. This was the first time such a senior figure in Pakistan admitted to something which India had been crowing for the last several decades. But Indian concerns were not taken note of as Pakistan was being considered an important ally of the US for its’ supposedly fight against terror groups in Afghanistan. But senior US officials had altogether different take on Pakistan’s dubious role in Afghanistan.

On September 22, 2011, the outgoing joint chiefs chairman Mike Mullen accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of supporting a Taliban-linked insurgent group which had carried out an audacious attack on the American embassy in Kabul which happened a week ago. He had then commented that “Pakistani duplicity puts in jeopardy not only the frayed US-Pakistani partnership against terrorism, but also the outcome to the decade-old war in Afghanistan.” In the words of the then defense secretary Leon Panetta, “Pakistani intelligence is using the Haqqanis and other extremist groups as its proxies inside Afghanistan.”

Next year, Obama administration decided to withhold more than one-third of all military assistance to Pakistan worth some $800 million. It included funding for military equipment and $300 million for counter-insurgency programmes.

The relations between the two countries nosedived after the US raided Osama bin Laden’s secret compound inside Pakistan in May 2011 without even bothering to inform Pakistani authorities. It could not have been more humiliating than this for any sovereign country. But the US suspected that some elements in Pakistan could thwart its attempts to get Laden either alive or dead.  In fact, in his first interview to “60 Minutes” days after the killing of Laden, President Obama said his administration thought that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden. “But we don’t know who or what that support network was,” Obama added.  The comments reflected the US’ frustration with Pakistan.

Surprisingly, the US aid resumed two years later in 2013 when it quietly decided to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic assistance to Pakistan. One fails to understand what happened in those two years that the US again turned to its so-called ally! Was it because Pakistan had started moving closer to China? Interestingly, officials and congressional aides said ties have improved enough to allow the money to flow again. Even if one were to believe that ties had improved, then what made the US to slam Pakistan again within a year for using militant proxies against India?

In its November 2014 report on “Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” tabled in the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon said, “Afghan and India – focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. Pakistan uses these proxy forces to hedge against the loss of influence in Afghanistan and to counter India’s superior military.”

The Pentagon report certainly was at variance with the Obama administration’s new-found love for Pakistan. The Pentagon’s critical report came in a year when Narendra Modi swept to power and the Obama administration began viewing Indo-US relationship as “one of the defining partnerships of the century”.

As the bonhomie between Modi and Obama grew, the US President once again bracketed Pakistan with Afghanistan and the Middle East and warned that these countries could become safe havens for new terrorist networks. In his final State of the Union address on January 13 this year, Obama said : “For even without IS, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks.”

And President Obama followed it again after the terror attack on Pathankot air base early this January. Describing the terror attack on the IAF base in Pathankot as “another example of the inexcusable terrorism that India has endured for too long”, President Obama told Pakistan that it “can and must” take more effective action against terrorist groups operating from its soil by “delegitimising, disrupting and dismantling” terror networks there. A very hard-hitting statement, indeed!

Are President Obama and his administration now convinced that Pakistan has delegitimized, disrupted and dismantled terror networks operating there? Has Pakistan, according to President Obama, taken effective action against terrorist groups to qualify for the renewed military assistance?

What is hard to digest is the US’ defence over sale of F16 fighter jets to Pakistan. The US State Department spokesperson Helaena W. White said:  “We support the proposed sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan to assist Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. Pakistan’s current F-16s have proven critical to the success of these operations to date.”

Who the US is trying to fool with such inane justification? It has been providing F-16 fighters to Pakistan since the 80s. Had Pakistan been using these fighter planes against militant groups, terrorism would have been on its last legs. In fact, these planes are being used against separatist insurgents in the restive province of Baluchistan, in Pakistan’s North Waziristan regions. At a time when both India and the US are intensely engaged in fighting the scourge of terrorism, this decision will not go down well with New Delhi, which has rightly registered its strongest protest with Washington.

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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

Vikas Khanna

is a senior Delhi based journalist

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2 thoughts on “F-16 Sweetner! Suspicious US flirts with Pakistan yet again

  1. Mind Games! Let USA give more F 16 to Pakistan. We have to develop our own Tejas MK II at lightening spead to counter US free aid to Pakistan. Then we must develop our own AMCA and start manufacturing in next 5 years. By then USA may give a few F 35 to Pakistan.
    Believe me, this will happen! We have to gather our intelligence and self motivated development and ask our scientists to work hard to counter US threat. But that does not mean we have to sour our rellations with USA. We may have to buy a few gadgets from them to keep highest possible standard! Do not fall back on diplomacy!
    India is the land of Brahma. Land of Vedas. Land of Brahmins. We do not fall back! Keep deplomacy! Achieve the best! US diplomacy with our enemies will fall in its own back yard!
    Learn something from Russians! 140 million of them are alone and poor, but as far as defence is concerned, they are second to none.
    We have to develop our own technology and defence systems. Our own Power House! Our own strides where we can work fast! Our own efforts will keep us up! Our adversaries will respect us. We must IMBIBE PATRIOTISM! It is happening at the moment that our scientists working in DRDO are running away to USA with some research achieved at DRDO and get better pay in USA. BRAIN DRAIN. TEACH AND CULTIVATE PATRIOTISM TO OUR CHILDREN! Today if a prosperous man in India gets a US visa through a marriage of his daughter or son with a USA partner, he will wait for settlement Visa for himself and family and be prepared to go to USA! We need Patriotism! Stay in our own country and strive to prosper and strive to gain and achieve and inplement new technologies at our own home! If all Indians follow this, we will be NumberOne!

  2. US needs a base in S. Asia/W.Asia to set its feet to have a strict vigilance in West and South Asia. Pakistan badly needs money and supply of weapons and equipment to meet its strategic requirements to address its internal issues such as Baluchistan and Waziristan etc as well as external issues with neighbouring countries like India and Afghanistan etc. Requirements of both the countries complement each other on this issue, and this unholy alliance between them serves their mutual purpose. But, I feel that Pakistan is winner in this bargain, and US helplessly gets blackmailed.

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