For many years, if not decades, to come, the US will get negative publicity from a strategically crucial large country, courtesy Congress’ decision to save $430 million by denying sale of eight F-16s under the Foreign Military Financing program. Prime facie, Washington will sell eight fighter jets if Islamabad can foot the bill. Congress’ Foreign Relations Committee has acted on the ground that Pakistan’s operations against Islamic militants don’t merit US support. The House has mocked the Obama administration’s applause for Pakistan’s Zarb-e-Azb campaign.
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During the 1980s and 1990s, F-16s became the symbol of Pak-US friendship. The war bird’s images and caricatures were adorned on trucks, buses and rickshaws. Post-9/11 Pak-US relationship continues to be symbolised by drones or Un-manned Aerial Vehicles. During the era of crippling military sanctions, Pakistan Air Force endeared its fighting falcon even more. The US failed to ground the country’s mainstay platform, thanks to its friends and global black market for ‘everything’. While the nation and its air force cherished the American jet, Washington’s unreliability became embedded in Islamabad’s strategic thinking.
The political infighting crippled Pakistan’s economy and bankruptcy was averted with expansive debts from global financial institutions. The drawings of Super-7 fighter jet could not be turned into prototypes. More used Mirages and variants of Chinese F-7Ps helped PAF maintain the numbers, but with a not-so-significant punch. The US sanction impacted everyone, if not financially then psychologically.
The development of JF-17 Thunder along with China trounced the Light Combat Aircraft, its rival across the eastern border. The appetite for F-16s, however, remained. Thus, more units were imported at high political and financial cost. While the Kamra aeronautical complex churns out about two dozen multirole aircrafts yearly, Nawaz government has piled up enough foreign debt that it may take the country a decade of austerity-driven policies to pay it off.
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Vision of the Future
Paired with Obama administration embracing Modi-led India, the Congressional red card to Pakistan has brought more clarity to the public mindset. While the US policy is favouring extremists in India, it’s also feeding into hardliners and Islamists, which makes the superpower no different than the Ayatollahs of Iran. For decades, the lone Muslim nuclear state was dubbed as a difficult country to work with. Now, legislatures have effectively lessened the burden of diplomacy for the Department of State.
An assortment of sanctions can be expected next, given overly represented Indian-Americans in the government sector, not to mention India’s effective lobbying skills. The cases of North Korea and Iran have yet again exposed efficacy of curbs.
Some optimists may have raised eyebrows but the majority is far from surprised. While the US still needs Pakistan’s support in Afghanistan, there is little matching dependence on the other side.
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To some astute observers, Washington-Islamabad break-up has become even more irreversible. French leader Charles de Gaulle predicted it well: “You may be sure that the Americans will commit all the stupidities they can think of, plus some that are beyond imagination.”
To save a meagre sum of money, the US has subscribed to harsh long-term disapproval. The defense policy wizards here are witnessing flashbacks of arms embargo of 1965, betrayal of 1971, sanctions of 1990s, and intimidation stretching post-9/11.
China is going to have the last laugh. The secretive defense relationship is going to further deepen to the annoyance of the US and India. The Pakistani side brings valuable expertise to the table, particularly in the realm of military technology while Chinese are no fair-weather friends. Caution: stronger ties with China can remain a win-win if Pakistan ensures protection for its industry against dumping in the guise of CPEC trade.
For Pakistanis, it’s time to heed to the stern wakeup call of Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and achieve self-sufficiency. Thank you Congressmen!
Courtesy : Express Tribune