F-16 Sales To Pakistan Are A Problem For India

In a big change, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency recently told Pakistan about possible $450 million Foreign Military Sales for engine, electronic warfare, and other hardware, software, and spare parts upgrades and repairs for Pakistan’s F-16s. Will it hurt the rapidly growing defence and security cooperation between India and the US?

Some people say that the US decision is very bad for India. Like the administrations before it, the current one in Washington, led by President Joe Biden, wants New Delhi to think that the US’s defence partnership with Pakistan is only meant to help the US win its global war on terror. The US wants Pakistan to use F-16s only to fight terrorism along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Officials in Washington say that the sale to Pakistan won’t give Pakistan any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions. The F-16s that the US has given to Pakistan are just updated and replaced every so often.

But it would be hard for New Delhi to take these claims seriously and do nothing about defence. Modern history shows that Islamabad is known for being dishonest about how it deals with terror groups that operate on its land. It has always used the US war on terror only to extract from Washington such systems and equipment as would help it target India.

The Pakistan Air Force has had a fleet of F-16s since the early 1980s. Pakistan has only ever used the defence systems that the US has given it against India. The F-16s it has in its arsenal are no different. After the Indian Air Force attacked Balakot by air in February 2019, Pakistan sent its F-16s to attack Indian military bases near the Line of Control.

Last week, when our officials met with US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu in Delhi, they did the right thing by bringing up problems with the US plan for FMS to Pakistan. New Delhi wants the Biden administration to take care of their problems. It must help create an environment in which the world’s two biggest democracies can work together better for the sake of the future of humanity. Washington must make sure that no systems that could be used against India are sent to Islamabad.

In the meantime, New Delhi needs to keep working on its defence modernization programme and keep its advantage over Islamabad.

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