MUMBAI: The United States of America must not go ahead with the sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, nor should it continue with or justify the need to extend arms-related or non-security assistance to the latter due to its irrefutable history of supporting terrorist groups on its soil and in the neighbourhood, says the Mumbai-based prominent foreign policy think tank Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations.
In a recent article jointly authored by well-known academics Christine Fair and Sumit Ganguly, which has been published by Gateway House, both maintain that Washington’s justification for this generous transfer of weapons, security and non-security assistance (USD 30 to 31 billion since 2002 alone) is fundamentally and logically flawed, and they opine that time has come for the United States to reassess its relationship with Pakistan and seriously consider changing course.
This view assumes greater significance in the wake of a stubborn and determined the Obama administration insisting that it will go ahead with its decision to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, which it sees as critical in assisting Pakistan's counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations.
Historically also, the argument put forward by Washington has been that if it does not deliver this security and non-security support, it could lead to the collapse of the Pakistan state and weakening of the will and striking capacity of its armed forces.
The Gateway House article goes so far as to describe Pakistan as an “unworthy ally” that uses Washington’s generous assistance to “foster a sense of insecurity concerning its nuclear arsenal and expanding ranks of jihadists”.
Fair and Ganguly further state that Pakistan has a strategic compulsion to use militants on its soil and non-state actors of a similar ilk in the neighbourhood to work against India and Afghanistan, suggest that its goals go beyond its acknowledged Islamist ideological objectives.
A careful assessment of statistics appears to back their view. Professor Fair, in another article, reveals that since 2002, the U.S. has provided Pakistan 7.6 billion dollars in security-related assistance; 13 billion dollars in lucrative reimbursements under “dubiously named” Coalition Support Program (CSP) and another 10.5 billion dollars in economic assistance.
What Pakistan has done in return for this largesse is that it has persistently supported the Afghan Taliban which has been responsible for the deaths of 2,356 American and 677 other NATO military personnel, the deaths of thousands of civilian contractors, more than 21,000 Afghan civilians and more than 20,000 Afghan police and army personnel.
The article also trashes Islamabad’s contention that Washington has been a “perfidious ally” in that it has never come to its assistance despite there being a bilateral defence pact in place between the two nations for the last 62 years. Pakistan has always believed that the U.S. should have provided help to it during its wars with India in 1965 and 1971, and should not have withheld supply of F-16 combat aircraft because of sanctions imposed in 1990.
The Gateway House article, however, turns this argument on its head, and accuses Pakistan of practicing “distortion of reality” and even goes to the extent of describing it as “outright fiction”. It maintains that Washington was never legally obliged to help Islamabad in 1965, as the premise of the 1954 defence pact was that it would come to the latter’s assistance if it was under threat or attacked. In the case of the 1971 conflict, then President Richard Nixon bent U.S. law to authorize military aid even as it was well known that Islamabad was carrying out a genocidal mission in its eastern Bengali-dominant half.
The cases relating to the last minute non-supply of F-16 aircraft and Islamabad’s claim that the United States drew it into the fight against jihadists in Afghanistan also has a disputable history of its own, and according to the article, is equally flawed in terms of contention.
Both Fair and Ganguly are of the view that it is a given that Pakistan has little reason to change its behaviour or its strategies, and therefore, Washington should, as a best and realistic option, initiate a strategy of containment while continuing to maintain its diplomatic ties; it should stop supplying strategic weapons systems and prevent Pakistan from going in for replacements and repair of equipment already in its possession; it should interact, support and engage with that part of Pakistan civil society that is most aligned to its interests and should effectively work towards acquiring improved social intelligence on Pakistan, as the strategic dynamics of South Asia has undergone a marked change since the Cold War era.