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Recently the US State Department approved a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Government of Pakistan for the “sustainability of the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet and equipment at the cost of USD 450 million.” Earlier the Trump administration had imposed a ban on military aid to Pakistan.
On New Year’s Day in 2018, former President Donald Trump said in a tweet: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”
Answering a question after his address to a group of American-Indians about the Biden administration’s approval of FMS to Pakistan, Dr. S. Jaishankar, the Indian External Affairs Minister said that “America’s relationship with Pakistan has “not served” either of the two countries”. He raised questions about the Biden administration’s approval of a massive sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet.
The contours of state policies may change with the change of governments. But every state has a fundamental approach to and understanding of lasting national interests, unavoidable shifts in policy perceptions notwithstanding. Every incumbent government evaluates the pros and cons of crucial decisions of the previous government keeping in mind those fundamentals.
Commentators familiar with status-quo India for several decades in the post-independence period find themselves ill at ease with the NDA government’s new idea of “strategic autonomy.”
The universally accepted norm is that no country has the freedom of interfering in the internal affairs of another country. This is also the stipulation of the UN Charter.
“Very honestly, it’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well nor serving the American interests. So, it is really for the United States today to reflect on what are the merits of this relationship and what do they get by it”, Jaishankar said in response to a question during an interaction with the Indian-Americans.
Referring to the argument made by the US that the F-16 sustenance package is intended to help fight terrorism, he said everybody knows where and against whom F-16s are used. “You’re not fooling anybody by saying these things,” he added.
In a notification to the US Congress, the State Department decided to approve a possible foreign military sale for sustainment and related equipment for an estimated cost of USD 450 million, arguing that this will sustain Islamabad’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet.
Who are the terrorists who threaten the integrity of Pakistan? Pakistan has allowed its army and intelligence agency to create as many terrorist groups as they can with more than one objective. These armed gangsters are used to suppress the nationalist movements in Baluchistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and PoK, including Gilgit and Baltistan. China, the ‘big brother’ of Pakistan has undertaken to lend indirect support to these terrorist organizations and their prominent members by rejecting any attempt by the free world to get them designated as such by the Security Council. The US has acknowledged that the Mumbai attack was the handiwork of one of the terrorist organisations based in Pakistan. Pakistan continued to plead feigned ignorance about the conspirators of 9/11. President Biden has become a prisoner of “willing suspension of disbelief”.
Conditions for sale-purchase of military hardware between any two countries are seldom disclosed. It is a different matter that some resourceful media magnates may gather some clues with which they build a story. When the US sold Patton tanks to Pakistan they assured India that these would not be used against her. But then Pakistan deployed them in the war against India, the disabled Patton tanks were put up for the public show in many towns of India. Some of these skeletons still are on display.
The US offered the same excuse for supplying F-16 jets to Pakistan which India considered a threat to its security. The US made the same fake excuse but in the air battle following the Balakot pincer attack, a Pakistani F-16 was downed by the Indian Group Captain Abhinandan. Pakistan quickly hid the debris of the shot-down F-16 and denied suffering any damage to the F-16 squadron.
How is F-16 going to help Pakistan in boosting “anti-terrorist activities”, one may ask? Did these lethal machines help the US decimate the Taliban in Afghanistan? Sanctioning of FMS to Pakistan is clearly and undoubtedly the arm-twisting tactics against India for not being in the US-led group supporting the fighting in Ukraine through the double-edged sword of supplying sophisticated weapons plus funds to Ukraine and at the same time imposing sanctions on private companies that carry the Russian oil in their tankers.
Jaishankar is very right in asking what benefit have the two countries derived from the type of relationship they have forged. Their camaraderie is essentially based on a definite political objective on each side. The US wants an acquiescent partner in the Sub-continent physically close to the then Soviet Union and bitterly opposed to socialist idealogy. Pakistan wants the super-power to be on its side, especially in military terms, to carry forward its anti-India campaign in which Kashmir is the flash point. The US poured millions of dollars into Pakistan and opened its treasury and arsenals in Pakistan for transmission to terrorists and anti-Russia mujahedeen. 9/11 was the result. Pakistan told former President Bush that it was on his side in the war against terror, yet clandestinely provided support to the Afghan Taliban in their fight against the American and NATO forces. What was the result? The ignominious departure of US forces from Afghanistan. What did Pakistan get out of its alliance with the US? Huge funds that went into the coffers of the Pakistan Army Generals who looted the country in the name of Kashmir jihad and anti-insurgency movement in Baluchistan and North Waziristan. Look at Pakistan struggling for bare survival and her leaders going around the world with a beggar’s bowl.
We know that Pakistan is important for the US to carry forward its anti-Russia and anti-India agenda. How does the US believe that India will not react and try to find its ways of survival with honour and dignity? The US cannot deal with the world’s largest democracy which has a vibrant economy with an arm-twisting policy. India did not support the resolution pushed by the US against Russia in the UN Security Council. The reason is simple. India knows how proxies are created and conspiracies are hatched. India has been facing a proxy war for three decades in Kashmir. How could India be a party to the ideology of wars by proxy? But that does not mean India has given up independent thinking and dealing with issues. In Samarkand, PM Modi frankly told Putin that this was not the era of wars but peace. This positive aspect of “strategic autonomy” should not be misinterpreted.
India has warned the world that unless the UN goes through a spate of progressive reforms its survival is doomed. India can see clearly that the hegemonic approach to the issue is being carried out by intimidating the UN organs. The UN seems mired in partisan fights and that may spell its demise. The Afro-Asian UN could be one of the options for replacing the morbid and defunct UN that we have at present.