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Prioritizing India: Reevaluating the US's position in South Asia
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ONC Editorial

Jan 15, 2023

This is an opinion piece discusses the United States' approval of the sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan and the effects this decision could have on the relationship between the United States and Pakistan and the United States and India.

On Sept. 7, 2022, in a press release delivered by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, it was announced that the United States approved the sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan. The F-16’s are a prized possession for the Pakistani Air Force and are lauded globally for their excellent reliability and combat capabilities. According to Sakshi Tiwari of The Eurasian Times (2022), the F-16 deal acts as a measure to improve the bilateral ties between the U.S. and Pakistan, which experienced significant periods of distress under the presidency of Donald Trump.

While the F-16 deal is being considered an overall positive decision for the United States (as the country aims to balance out Pakistan’s relationship with China), I strongly believe that the U.S.-Pakistan F-16 deal could have negative geo-political consequences for the U.S. and could boost unfavorable public opinion against the U.S. within India.

India, a fellow democracy and an extremely important trade partner and geopolitical ally, has voiced strong opinions against the sale of F-16’s to Pakistan. According to The Economic Times (2022), India sees the aircrafts as potential national security risks in the arms of Pakistan, a nation that has committed itself to “bleeding India with a thousand cuts.”

Recently, in an article by India Today Web Desk (2022), it was reported that the Indian Minister of External Affairs made statements claiming things such as the “United States is fooling no one with the F-16 deal,” and “everyone knows against whom the jets would be used," thus implying that the F-16 deal by the U.S. is a method adopted by the country to settle scores against India for not denouncing Russia at the start of the Russia-Ukraine war.

According to Isaac Kardon of the Wilson China Fellowship (2022), Chinese influence extends over all critical sectors of Pakistan, which automatically makes the United States’ attempts to regain its lost power in Pakistan a problematic task. Chinese influence makes Pakistan an unreliable ally. Still, Chinese power, coupled with proof of Pakistan funding terror activities in neighboring countries (like Afghanistan and India), potentially makes the risks of the deal much greater than its benefits.

India strongly expresses its opinions against the F-16 deal, as it is seen as a move that “arms the enemy” and that further promotes the image of the U.S. as an unreliable strategic partner. Due to the sheer significance of trade and geopolitical cooperation, the U.S. would benefit much more from a better military relationship with India than with Pakistan. India already possesses a highly skilled army with immense capabilities in a wide range of areas.

Increased cooperation in areas of defense would have undeniable benefits for the United States, such as better access to the Indo-Pacific and the gaining of an active ally to help counter China in Asia.


Sources:

"As US Approves Package For Pakistan's F-16 Fleet, India Registers 'Strong' Protest". The Economic Times, 2022, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/as-us-approves-package-for-pakistans-f-16-fleet-india-registers-strong-protest/articleshow/94129011.cms.

Kardon, Isaac. "China's "New Era" Of Influence On Pakistan". Wilson Center, 2022, https://www.wilsoncenter.org/microsite/2/node/93797.

"Pakistan – F-16 Case For Sustainment | Defense Security Cooperation Agency". Dsca.Mil, 2022, https://www.dsca.mil/press-media/major-arms-sales/pakistan-f-16-case-sustainment.

Tiwari, Sakshi. "Upgraded F-16 Fighters For Pakistan – Is Indian Air Force Worried By China, US Arming India’S Key Adversary?". Latest Asian, Middle-East, Eurasian, Indian News, 2022, https://eurasiantimes.com/upgraded-f-16-fighters-for-pakistan-is-indian-air-force-worried/.

"Why Has Jaishankar's F-16 Comment Gone Viral? Read The Full Backstory". India Today, 2022, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/external-affairs-minister-jaishankar-comment-fighter-jets-pakistan-us-assistance-backstory-f-16-2005513-2022-09-27

 

Written by Abhinav Banerjee. The opinions expressed in this article represent the opinions of the author.

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