Washington’s decision to extend military support to Pakistan, the first security assistance in four years, reflects its double standards
The Biden administration’s approval of a $450-million F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment programme for Pakistan is an ominous sign for India. At a time when a consensus is emerging among the international community on Pakistan’s undeniable role in sheltering global terrorists, the resumption of security assistance by Washington to Islamabad is bound to send a wrong signal. It is particularly alarming for India which has been bearing the brunt of Pakistan’s policy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy. Pakistan has done precious little in the past four years to convince the international community of its commitment to counter terrorism. It needs to explain how it has been using its existing F-16 fighters, if at all, to break the back of terrorists operating from its territory. The ground reality is that Pak-based terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba are targeting India as well as Afghanistan and posing a threat to peace and stability in the region. India is justified in raising objections over the deal. Though Islamabad claimed that the upgradation support for F-16s was needed for ‘counter-terrorism operations’, there are concerns that it would be used for operations against India. It was in 2018 that then US President Donald Trump had suspended about $2 billion in security aid to Islamabad for not taking adequate action against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network terror groups. Considering Islamabad’s lack of credibility on cross-border terrorism, Washington’s decision to bolster Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 prowess reeks of a design to provoke India.
The US State Department’s decision to extend military support to Pakistan, the first security assistance in four years, reflects its double standards. On one hand, America sees a key role for India in strengthening the anti-China coalition in the Indo-Pacific region while on the other, it has no qualms about encouraging military muscle-flexing by China’s all-weather ally and India’s arch-enemy Pakistan. New Delhi must call out Washington for its dubious policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. However, the US officials sought to justify the sale, saying it was a maintenance deal for F-16s, some of which are 40 years old and part of the US’ global policy of maintaining its defence sales for their entire lifecycle. The disagreement over the F-16 package is one of a number of areas where New Delhi and Washington appear to be at odds, despite a period of active engagement. In the past few months, India has also rejected the US calls to change its vote on Russia at the United Nations and refused to cut Russian energy purchases. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Summit in Uzbekistan, to be attended by leaders of Russia, China, Turkey and Iran, is certainly not to the liking of the Biden administration.