News & Views
A country’s foreign policy or foreign relations policy consists of self-interest strategies adopted by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve goals within its international relations milieu. United States, being super power, wishes to maintain that status, and formulates or amends its policies according to the situation. Pakistan had excellent relations with the US; however, the need for counterbalance in the region disappeared with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, which weakened the US-Pakistan relationship. Things deteriorated when the US imposed sanctions on Pakistan following a successful nuclear test in 1998. Then came 9/11 and suddenly America needed Pakistan again. The job in Afghanistan is not done. But America, or rather the American people have had enough. There is no appetite for more. It is in this backdrop that America’s overtures show that it needs Pakistan.
Last week, US Defence Security Cooperation Agency certified to the Congress that it was in America’s national interest to sell eight F-16 fighter jets and related equipment to Pakistan. The certification was needed to satisfy the US Congress where pro-India lobby was opposing the sale. It rejected India’s claim that the proposed sale would alter military balance in South Asia. It also dispelled objections raised during recent congressional debates that it will adversely affect US defence interests in Afghanistan where thousands of US troops are still present. Indian protests had gone unheeded, as the Obama administration on Saturday notified the US Congress of its decision to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Angered over the US decision to sell more F-16 planes to Pakistan, the India summoned US Ambassador Richard Verma to the Ministry of External Affairs to express its displeasure.
In a meeting that lasted about 45 minutes Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told the US Ambassador “that not only was India disappointed by the move, but also upset about the decision to sell Pakistan eight F-16 fighter jets in a deal worth $699.04 million.” In 2006, the US had restarted the supplies with a contract for 18 planes, which were completed in 2012 with an option of supply of 18 more. The current decision to supply 8 more F-16 is in reference to the same contract. Reacting to India’s protest, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has regretted India’d objection to sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan by the United States. Talking to a news channel, he said “India was engaged in big arms deals with the United States and Russia, but making hue and cry over purchase of F-16 jets, which is unfortunate.”
India and Russia had signed 16 agreements on defence, nuclear energy and other key areas worth $7bn during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Moscow in December 2015, with the two sides announcing that Russia plans to build at least six new nuclear power units in India. This was in addition to inking key deals like the production of BrahMos missiles and the attack chopper Kamov-226 in India. India’s cabinet had also approved a $3 billion deal for Boeing Co. military helicopters. The 22 Apache attack choppers and 15 Chinook cargo choppers comprised the biggest defence contract since Narendra Modi came to power. “India wants more sophistication and has the money to get that wherever that technology is available, whether it’s Israel, France, the US or elsewhere,” Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defense-industry analyst for IHS Jane’s had said.
During a January visit to New Delhi, President Obama had reached a deal with Modi for India to produce drones and airplane parts, and to study technology for aircraft carriers and jet engines. Earlier, when India had stayed neutral during the Cold War, it expanded economic and military ties with the Soviet Union, though it had claimed neutrality during 1960s. Indian is now distancing itself from the Non-Aligned Movement and also abandoned its support for the Palestinian cause. It has been India’s policy for long to keep its bilateral military ties with Israel under wraps due to international political sensitivities. Of course, the main reason behind keeping the defence relations strictly confidential was that India did not like to annoy Arab countries and Iran. India had all along been conveying an impression that it supported the right of Palestinians to have an independent and sovereign state. But now it is Israel’s ally.
Last year, Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon had talked about improving India-Israel defence ties, underlined the ‘threat’ posed by Iran including to Delhi, and justified the 2014 Gaza siege. There was also discussion on how to deal with the Iranian threat. India and Israel intelligence agencies established joint monitoring centre in Rajasthan to track Pakistan’s nuclear program, and according to a report they purchased the modern sophisticated devices for the monitoring centre. Last year, Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon had visited India and strongly backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. In an answer to the question whether his visit was an indication to acknowledge the strong defence relations, Israeli defence minister said: “That is right. We were ready to expose relations earlier but it was up to the Indian government to take it out of the closet.”
Unfortunately, not much has appeared in the media about India’s longer and wider role in clandestine warfare against its neighbours, Sri Lanka, Nepal and particularly Pakistan. In a video showing lecture delivered by Ajit Doval, India’s ex-spymaster and now the national security adviser should set all doubts about India’s clandestine wars at rest. Ajit Doval called Pakistan the enemy; extolled Indian intelligence’s ability to infiltrate the Kashmir insurgency; crowed about the beheading of Pakistani soldiers by the TTP and advocated a policy of ‘defensive offense’ against Pakistan. As a matter of fact, India’s shadow wars against Pakistan commenced in 1971 when it actively trained and financed the Mukti Bahini to fight the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan, laying the ground for India’s eventual military intervention to break up Pakistan. However, today Pakistan is in a position to thwart any threat from the hostile neighbour.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.