F-16 sale to Pakistan in

S national interest

The US is arming Pakistan with F-16 planes in its own
national interest , but it could well ignite trouble
between India and Pakistan, writes  ERIC KOO PENG KUAN

What is India News Service
4 April 2005

Even as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his "disappointment" with the sale of at least two dozen F-16s to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the US decision to make the sales of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, citing US efforts to build ties with both India and Pakistan at once. The Seattle Times also reported that less noticed was an offer made to India to also buy state of the art weaponry from the United States of America (USA).[1]

The issue, as far as third parties are concerned, was never really about an upsetting of the power balance in the South Asian continent, but really that of national interest. It is understandable that India is naturally unhappy about the enhanced air power acquired by Pakistan. But seen from the US perspective, the USA needs the continual help of Pakistan and increased co-operation in the war against terrorism, especially in dealing with Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network. As a gesture of friendship or a form of grateful repayment to Pakistan on co-operation in counter terrorism in areas where the US presence is considered awkward and therefore unable to do the job, such as intelligence in Pakistani tribal areas, from the US point of view, it is a logical and necessary move. Moreover mounting military expenses costs in Iraq also motivates the USA to approve this arms deal desired by Pakistan, to help offset costs. 

What is most conveniently ignored however, is that national and commercial interests are satisfied at the current moment, but the USA is indirectly helping to fuel continual conflict in one of the world’s most volatile flashpoints. Both India and Pakistan possessed nuclear arms and are still unresolved on the Kashmir issue, a zone of continual and perpetuate armed conflict between the two nations. India and Pakistan had also come to blows in the past, having fought four inconclusive border wars, in 1947-1949, 1965, in 1971 over Bangladesh, (then called East Pakistan) and the
Kargil War in 1999. In a future potential conflict between the two antagonists, the stakes would certainly be much higher than before. It may also give rise to an arms race by both South Asian countries, as both antagonists vie to outdo each other in military technology.

By raising the arms inventories of both nations, the risk of another potential war is heightened. Secretary Rice’s reasons of building ties with both India and Pakistan fool no one in reality. The Bush administration claimed that it is not playing favorites, but such a publicized and generous arms sale will simply be interpreted by other cash strapped nations as a legal international precedent to also sell their own weapons to willing buyers, and once again the USA will be criticized at practicing double standards in the area of arms proliferation as well. In future, the USA may find much more difficulty in citing the moral grounds to pressurize other nations into not exporting weapons for hard currency.


[1] “U.S. jet deals reflect a balancing act” The Seattle Times 27/03/2005

The writer, based in Singapore, is a Master of Science in Strategic Studies from the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (IDSS). He writes on international affairs, security and terrorism. 

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