More Mollycoddling

Latest sale of F-16s by the US to Pakistan carries a message for India.

Written by Thomas Mathew | Updated: March 9, 2016 4:22 am
barack obama, obama, US president obama, obama administration, sale of F 16, sale of F 16 to pakistan, sale of eight F 16, US congress, amrs export control act, John Kerry, US Ambassador Richard Verma, indian express US Ambassador Richard Verma made a spirited defence of the sale, calling it a “legacy announcement”.

The Obama administration is stubbornly going ahead with the sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan and has notified the US Congress under its Arms Export Control Act. It has done so disregarding India’s strong protestations and even opposition from some US legislators. Secretary of State John Kerry is leading the pack attempting to silence critics, stating that it’s “critical” for Pakistan to counter terrorists.

In New Delhi, US Ambassador Richard Verma made a spirited defence of the sale, calling it a “legacy announcement”. The most gracious view is of an ambassadorial effort to obfuscate and cloud what the sale forebodes. It was at best an attempt to explain the sale away as an old decision. The ambassador’s statement would have been more credulous if he had instead admitted the sale was part of the continuing US legacy of arming Pakistan. But he hastened to add it would exercise restraint on future supplies. Never mind that US arms supplies to Pakistan gained in strength under the Obama administration, with the Kerry-Lugar Act serving as the umbrella legislation.

To many US watchers, the intermittent announcements of arms supplies to Pakistan should have come as no surprise. Yet, the timing was startling, as it came only weeks after the terrorist attack at Pathankot. This alone should have dissuaded the Obama administration to, at least, defer the announcement of the sale.

First, the US hasn’t set store by India’s objections that Pakistan’s singular objective is to strengthen itself against India, a reality its own officials concede. As Michèle Flournoy, then US under secretary of defence for policy, testified before the House armed services committee in 2009, Pakistan has “focused most of [its] equipment acquisition on [its] deterrent capacity vis-à-vis other neighbours, particularly India” and not on “counter-emergency.”

Second, the US hasn’t hesitated to supply Pakistan with weapons and platforms that have no nexus with the fight against terror. These include the Perry-class Missile Frigate USS McInerney, P-3C Orion maritime aircraft, AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and 32 (excluding the new eight) F-16s, more suited to wage war with India. The proposed sale will take Pakistan’s fleet to 84 of these aircraft, far exceeding any requirement to fight terror. This leaves no doubt that America’s professions don’t square with its actions.

Third, US arms supplies to Pakistan can only embolden its army and help preserve its stranglehold on the elected government.

Fourth, and most importantly, the US has become India’s largest defence supplier. While it gives India access to sophisticated arms, there’s a hidden danger. It’s doubtful India would be able to use its US-origin wares against Pakistan without Washington’s consent. Going by past experience, it would be surprising if it doesn’t impose an embargo on India in a war with Pakistan. Critical spares and ammunition would stifle India’s war-waging capability. If, in its “pivot to Asia” and its fight against terror, Washington considers India’s role important, Delhi should demand an assurance it will do nothing to strengthen the armed forces of a nation whose declared objective is to strengthen itself against India and is a sponsor of terror. It should put Washington on notice that it cannot supply weapons to Pakistan with little relevance to combating terror.

No US president, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, has seriously resisted the Pentagon’s traditional tilt towards Pakistan. He didn’t even yield after Zia-ul-Haq rejected the US aid offer of US $400 million as “peanuts” and warned Washington that Islamabad’s cooperation could only be bought at a higher price. Islamabad’s disappointment was short-lived. With the election of Ronald Reagan, Carter’s policies were reversed. Pakistan became the third country outside Nato to be supplied F-16s. The US even turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear quest. Reagan certified to the US Congress that Islamabad didn’t “possess a nuclear explosive device”.

The unfortunate reality is that Pakistan has been the linchpin of US security strategy in South Asia. Two and a half decades after the Cold War, American mollycoddling of Pakistan continues. Evidently, Washington has been seldom persuaded by the tension its arms supplies to Pakistan engender and the impact on its “strategic ally” India. The latest sale of F-16s is portentous for Delhi. Washington calling India and the US “natural partners” shouldn’t lull Delhi into complacency.


The writer is additional secretary to the president of India. Views are personal

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  1. N
    Mar 9, 2016 at 2:11 am
    If stan gets F-16, why your AZZ is burning?
    1. R
      Mar 8, 2016 at 11:49 pm
      India should not bother about such s. India has the largest pool of engineers(of all fields), scientists, graduates and doctorates- all working as highly paid desk clerks in software companies and tracking drug money for 12 hours a day. All defense establishments have been appropriately manned by absolutely incompetent brahmin douche bags who work only for their appointees in central unintelligent agencies. 68 years of Skrewing and raping Bharat Mata and never got satisfied yet. Skrew, skrew and skrew her for ever. So what, India invests in the D departments of great powers like Israel, shamelessly out of Indian people's tax money. Are Indians yearning to give employment to those incompetent brahmin S of Bs? And investing in other country's' Ds? Kkers.
      1. L
        Lone figter
        Mar 9, 2016 at 9:38 am
        Us policies are driven by many things.... Obama is right now preparing to show case himself as one of the best presidents...
        1. S
          Mar 9, 2016 at 4:09 am
          US is giving great number of jobs to Indians. So Indians should keep their mouth shut and concentrate on RAM(Adult male sheep) temple building. Forget nation building.
          1. R
            Mar 9, 2016 at 9:31 am
            It is a pure business.... Nothing else for usa. They have already destro stan, iraq, afghanistan. I do not think, these f-16 makes any difference from Indian perspective. In history, stan could not handle all such hi-fi technology... Also these are useful only in decisive wars which if happens, India has better defense. Otherwise stan will be paying only maintenance cost to USA
            1. S
              Mar 9, 2016 at 5:31 am
              Why don't u blow yourself up and Wait for your turn with the 72 virgins. As long as u stay with civilized people, keep ur zip shut and stop reproducing dogs
              1. A
                Mar 9, 2016 at 6:23 am
                Fourth point is really worrisome given stan's history and US turning a blind eye at key moments.
                1. P
                  Mar 11, 2016 at 8:22 pm
                  Great piece. Somebody had to bare it all and pierce the US veil. Glad that the author has done it. India cannot accept US explanations blindly. How can a nation call another it's partner when it is bedding the nation's nemesis?
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