The Tale of F-16s and the Indian Grudges – l l

29 Feb

By Sohail Parwaz

Now the question arises as to why US is offering Pakistan F16s? An easy answer known to any sane person remains that Pakistan is a key player in the region (whether the Indians like it or not). Its known to all and sundries that if the Afghan Taliban, at all listen to anyone then it’s either KSA or Pakistan and while bowing to this factor, the Americans remarkably altered their perspective vis-à-vis Afghanistan during the last two years. The US after realizing that making India the sheriff in Afghanistan, logically won’t work, brought shift in its Afghan policy. Even in a recent statement, President Obama proclaimed that although US troops would be staying in Afghanistan longer than he had promised, however, the White House is keen to get the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table. The Americans know that it’s the game of give and take, and they will pay any price to press the Taliban to return for peace talks and to do their part to hunt for the peace that Afghans deserve.

 

The anti-Pakistan lobbies’ conspiracies did work but for a short while, when in January this year the US Congress “mired” Obama administration’s planned sale of eight new F16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Several requests for clarification and information were made by members of the House of Representatives, however, they clarified that it does not mean the move has been “cancelled”. Besides the Indians and the pro-Indian lobbies there was a Brutus named Hussain Haqqani who openly sided with the Indian anti-Pakistan campaign. It was disclosed by the Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, who accused India and former ambassador Husain Haqqani of trying to disrupt Pakistan’s deal with the United States to purchase F16 fighter jets.

To the sheer frustration of the Indians, about two weeks back, the US government finally disclosed approving the sale of eight F16 fighter jets, radars and other equipment to Pakistan and a day before announcing it, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency had notified the lawmakers about possible sale. New Delhi’s depression over the Pentagon’s choice was quite tacit; hence, India’s Foreign Secretary summoned US Ambassador for India to convey the country’s ‘displeasure’ over the possible sale. A US government official, while responding to Indian reaction, befittingly set aside India’s objections to F16 deal and stated, “We support the proposed sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan, which we view as the right platform in support of Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations. These operations reduce the ability of militants to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism and it is in the national interests of both Pakistan and the United States, and in the interest of the region more broadly”. Although US lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, nevertheless, such action is rare, as deals like this are well-vetted before any formal notification. The Pentagon Press Secretary Petro Cook also availed opportunity to snub India and made blunt comments about India’s needless anxiety. While addressing a briefing, highlighting the Indian concern, he said that the sale of F16 fighter jets to Pakistan should not be of concern to India and the deal took into account the regional security situation.

 

Parallel to this ‘shut-up call’ by Pentagon, Indian conspiracies were thwarted by senior diplomats in Washington who remained engaged with the Capitol Hill and met several Senators and Congressmen to make a case for Pakistan. Analysts believe the proposed sale will improve Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats without disturbing the basic military balance in the region. PAF currently operates 76 F16 fighters. The latest sale, if it goes through, will boost the fleet to 84 aircraft.

 

It’s high time for Indians to stop showing unease over Pakistan’s military ability and instead should sweat real hard to improve her own air force which currently appears to be in shambles. One can appreciate the Indian pain over Pakistan’s improving strategic capabilities, nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that India instead of putting their air force in order, starts protesting over Pakistan’s battle readiness. It reminds me of a joke about djinn who came across a quarreling lion and a hare. Had it not been little indecent I would have shared it with my Indian friends, right away. Believe me it’s very pertinent to them.

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