Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Why India has lashed out at the US over its F-16 package to Pakistan?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : F-16

Mains level : US's double standards over Pakistan

f-16

EAM S Jaishankar has lashed out at the US for its decision to provide Pakistan with a $450 million package for F-16 case fighter aircraft upgrade.

F-16 and Pakistan

  • The F-16 is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force (USAF).
  • Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft.
  • The F-16 were inducted into Pakistan Air Force in 1983 during the Soviet-Afghan War.

Suspicion over US move

  • This is the first American military assistance package to Pakistan after the Trump Administration.
  • Mr Trump ended defence and security co-operation with Pakistan in 2018 after accusing it of giving only “lies and deceit” for the billions of dollars that the US had “foolishly” given it.

What specific reasons has the Biden Administration given for its decision?

  • As per US version, the proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions.
  • The upgrade package aimed to retain interoperability with US and partner forces in ongoing counter-terrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.

Why did US provide F-16 to the US?

  • India has been concerned about the F-16s from the time the US first gave Pakistan F-16s as a reward for its assistance in the first Afghan war.
  • The US then had supplied weapons and money to Pakistan to unleash armies of jihadists against the Soviet Army.
  • When the US objective was achieved with the Soviet Union’s departure from Afghanistan, the US too resized its relations with Pakistan.
  • The Pressler Amendment, aimed against Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, froze it out of military assistance.
  • A decade later, the Bush Administration not only approved the release of previously blocked F-16s, but also provided a refurbishment package, and sale of new F-16s.

India’s concerns

  • As pointed out by EAM, how the F-16s help in counter-terrorism remains unclear.
  • Jaishankar questioned the merits of the US-Pakistan partnership.
  • He said that the relations had “not served” either country (but created more troubles for India).
  • This move by the US will alter the basic military balance in the region.
  • The decision to provide military aid to Pakistan incensed India as the F-16 was used against Indian warplanes following the 2019 Balakot air strikes.

Conclusion

  • Washington’s $450 million package has only resurrected old prejudices centred on the US not being a dependable ally for ever.
  • India needs to respond firmly and in no uncertain terms to the PAF’s F-16 upgrade programme to convey the message that India cannot be taken for granted.
  • India will have to effectively enhance the conventional combat capability of the IAF to continue to meet the challenge of a resurgent PAF.

 

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