By Lieutenant-General Prakash Katoch
The decision of the Barack Obama administration to sell eight F-16 Block-52 aircraft to Pakistan worth $699 million in the face of US lawmakers' opposition to the deal over Islamabad's alleged support for terrorist groups, has been most unfortunate. It belies the hope that the US actually wants to upgrade strategic ties with India beyond the money that US firms can make with India opening up to foreign investment in all sectors including defence. The US sale to Pakistan includes eight F-16 Block-52 aircraft — two C and six D and models with the F100-PW-229 increased performance engine; 14 Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems; eight AN/APG-68(V)9 radars; and eight ALQ-211(V)9 Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suit. This despite Bob Corker, chairman, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee writing to John Kerry, secretary of state objecting to this proposed sale.
What is more ludicrous is the pusillanimous US explanation that these F-16s are being given to Pakistan for facilitating operations in all-weather, non-daylight environments, providing a self-defence/area-suppression capability, and enhancing Pakistan's ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. The US very well knows that these F-16s will actually be used for:
One, in conflict against India and Afghanistan;
Two, supporting Taliban and Al-Qaeda operations into Afghanistan;
Three, butchering the Balochis where Pakistan has been launching genocide in the past years.
The US has turned a blind eye to even the discovery of mass graves indicating gross human rights violations. The Pakistani façade of aerial and artillery barrages against terrorist strongholds in North Waziristan, after warning the terrorist hierarchy to get away (as reported by Pakistani reporters on ground), is also well-known to the US. Besides, the US also knows that both the Talibans (Afghan and Pakistani) have joined hands, are linked with the ISI, and that the rise of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Afghanistan is through Pakistan. To compound matters, Pakistani regular army personnel are operating covertly inside Afghanistan.
One view in the US is that Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of F-16s were able to undertake effective lobbying for this sale, but surely Obama does not need Lockheed money for another election since he cannot stand for presidential elections a third time, unless he is looking at support for a post-election post which is being speculated in the US. This apart, with the US economy dependent on its weapon exports that have gone up exponentially over the past 15 years, its record in world affairs including with respect to terrorism is far from clean; having been behind the rise of Al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban and even the IS. Michael Flynn, former director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency has revealed in an interview to Al Jazeera that “Obama knew he was helping (IS) to grow but decided to do it anyway”. The fact is that IS was merrily exporting oil through Turkey (with full knowledge of the US) until Russian president Vladimir Putin started bombing the tanker convoys, destroying thousand of tankers with Russian air strikes.
John Pilger, in his May 2014 article ‘In Ukraine, the US is Dragging Us Towards War with Russia’, wrote, “Every year the American historian William Blum publishes his ‘updated summary of the record of US foreign policy’ which shows that, since 1945, the US has tried to overthrow more than 50 governments, many of them democratically elected; grossly interfered in elections in 30 countries; bombed the civilian populations of 30 countries; used chemical and biological weapons; and attempted to assassinate foreign leaders”. He added, “In many cases, Britain has been a collaborator”. Coming from a US historian, this is significant especially since Blum himself had worked in the US State Department.
But coming to Washington's love of Islamabad, while Pakistan's terror export has been supported by the US through financial and military aid — no matter how inadvertently — besides ignoring blatant nuclear proliferation by Pakistan (not even interrogating AQ Khan), of significance is the recent statement by James R Clapper, Director US National Agency to the US Senate Committee on Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Committee on 9 February, 2016. While multiple issues including terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and proliferation, and counter-terrorism were covered by him, the 30-page statement devotes just four lines to Pakistan, that too clubbed with India which says:
Relations between Pakistan and India remain tense despite the resumption of a bilateral dialogue in December. Following a terrorist attack in early January on Pathankot Air Force base in India, which New Delhi blames on a Pakistani-based group, India’s engagement with Pakistan will probably hinge in 2016 on Islamabad’s willingness to take action against those in Pakistan linked to the attack.
What more to signify the bias of the Obama administration and US intelligence towards a country that is acknowledged as the mother of terrorism?
India's national security advisor Ajit Doval had disclosed in November last year how Obama dropped billion dollars worth of high-technology weapons into Pakistan’s lap including systems designed to deliver nuclear warheads:
Perhaps the US administration is firm in its belief that Washington continues to control the Pakistani military, little realising how much of that control has passed into Chinese hands already.
It is equally significant to note that the Obama administration has been making consistent efforts in perception management through Western think tanks (US, British, Canada) in favour of Pakistan, at the cost of India. One example is the fraudulent propaganda of an India-Pakistan nuclear war to permit US molly-coddling Pakistan despite Islamabad waging proxy wars on India and Afghanistan. The second is to orchestrate an Indian withdrawal from the Saltoro Range knowing Chinese strategic lodgment in Gilgit-Baltistan, Shaksgam Valley and the aggressive stance in Eastern Ladakh — that no Pakistani is anywhere on the Siachen glacier and the whole region is Indian Territory under the 1948 UN Resolution on Kashmir. The third is to curtail the Indian role in Afghanistan, to permit Pakistan expand its strategic depth even as it continues to attack Indian assets in that country using the Haqqani network.
From the foregoing, it appears that Obama administration’s interest in India does not go beyond cooperation on the high seas and as long as its interest in Asia-Pacific is secure and cooperation by India is available in the Indian Ocean Region, it does not mind India losing territory along the Himalayas to the China-Pakistan nexus — even if it is at the cost of India’s strategic interests. On the contrary, persistent efforts are on for India to lose out on strategic space in the mountains through think tanks that have also bought over certain Indian stooges. That Afghanistan is being abandoned to its fate with all the military and financial aid being sent to Pakistan, is also reality.
In 1971, the Richard Nixon administration moved the USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal to prevent India acting against Pakistani genocide in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), not to mention how the Americans were hopping mad when India still went ahead. Yes, the Obama administration promises sharing defence technology — when it actually fructifies remains to be seen, but without addressing the aforementioned core issues, there is little scope for the India-US strategic partnership to attain the desired levels.
Ironically, the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Committee mentioned above warns of the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating during 2016; little wonder and it could be much worse with Pakistan unchecked, no matter what the strategic US agenda. While it appears nigh on impossible for the Obama administration to change tack, hopefully the next US President will take a more responsible recourse towards South Asia and India-US strategic cooperation.