The United States has decided to provide Pakistan with a US$450 million F-16 sustainment program. Apparently, Pakistan will be provided with spare parts that will help it maintain its jets, some of which are more than 40 years old, in flying condition. No new weapons or capabilities are being provided to Pakistan. The US has made it clear that it is a sale, and not an assistance, unlike what some Indian defence “experts” have been claiming. From the Indian perspective, it is problematic that the Joe Biden administration decided to overturn the hold that the previous government of Donald Trump had put on the deal. The reversal is being seen as a reward to Pakistan for helping the US kill Al Qaeda chief, Ayman Al Zawahiri, although it is unlikely that a single act will be rewarded so handsomely. Instead it has to do with Washington’s mindset of Pakistan being a strategically important country in the Af-Pak region, and stems from the belief that Islamabad—rather, General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi—can still play a role there to ensure that US interests are fulfilled, including of retaining a toehold in Afghanistan. It looks like that the US has forgotten its humiliating retreat from Afghanistan last year, as well as the way Pakistan ensured that its favourite terrorists from the Haqqani network got a decisive say in the Taliban government in Kabul.
That the deal has materialised has to be seen in the context of the US still retaining Pakistan as a Major Non Nato Ally, which allows Pakistan to get special military and financial assistance. The obvious question is: what further assistance is likely to come to Pakistan from the US? But then the problem is that, by acceding to the request of the Pakistani generals, the US is doing a disservice to the people of Pakistan—allowing the Pakistani generals to perpetuate their control over ordinary Pakistanis. And this in spite of Rawalpindi GHQ betraying the US time and again, and in spite of the generals being the single biggest destabilising force on the subcontinent, with the active backing of the Chinese military. In fact terror has been made Pakistan’s state policy by the Rawalpindi GHQ, and the US, which has built up dossiers on Pakistan’s misdeeds, is very much aware of this. Obviously, the US is knowingly turning a blind eye to all this. Even though it is extremely ironic that the US used the “counter-terrorism” excuse to offer this sale to Pakistan. The jets, apparently, are needed to counter terrorism. When was the last time that a fighter jet was used to counter terrorism in Pakistan? Surely the US would have realized that Pakistan would be using these jets to bomb insurgency prone areas, for example in Balochistan.
The US must also have realised that the jets are meant as a deterrence against India. So the argument that they won’t alter the balance of power in the region may appear a bit specious.
Also, how is it that a country that is surviving on bailouts given by international agencies can afford to spend $450 billion on spare parts for its fighter jets? And what about the people of Pakistan? Apparently, 30% of the country is flooded. People are dying by the thousands. There is a shortage of food. In spite of that the generals are more concerned about their fighter jets. Sadly, the US, which says that it stands for democracy and human values, is allowing the situation to fester. The US should also not forget that given Pakistan’s proximity to China, anything that is given to the former is as good as giving it to the latter. Hence, the US should think twice before “selling” any critical equipment to Pakistan.