US carrot-and-stick approach

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Kaswar Klasra

Obama administration against FMF for F-16s and favours strengthening ties

IN a major blow to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government which is already passing through critical times following Panama Papers Leaks, the Obama Administration, in clear words, conveyed to Pakistan recently that it was unable to provide Foreign Military Funds (FMF) for purchase of F-16s, sources told Pakistan Observer.
“Obama administration has made it clear to Pakistan, it was unable to provide FMF to Pakistan for purchase of state of the art F16s fighter jets,” US-based highly-placed official sources revealed to Pakistan Observer on Friday. They added that the US State Department conveyed it officials of Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC that it would no longer subsidize the $700-million-deal of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
It means that if Pakistan wishes to buy the fighters it would have to pay over $700 million (two-and-a-half times the subsidized cost).
The decision was taken after the US Congress, last month, refused to sanction funding for the deal.
When contacted, officials of US State Department told Pakistan Observer that even President of United States was unable to use his executive action or veto powers to counter Congress actions for the release of funds.
“Key members of Congress have made it clear that they object to using FMF funds – foreign military financing funds – to support this sale. And as I think John mentioned the other day or made clear, that given these objections, we’ve told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for the purchase,” Mr Tonner said.
Conversation with officials of US state department revealed that Obama administration will continue to support the proposed sale of these eight F-16s to Pakistan to assist in Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations.
Off the record conversation and background interviews with US state officials revealed that Obama administration believes that these F-16s have supported these kinds of operations to date.
“We think that they reduce the ability of certain militant groups to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism and a base of support for the insurgency in Afghanistan. And so preventing those kinds of groups from establishing that foothold in Pakistan is clearly in not only Pakistan’s interest but also in the national interest of Afghanistan as well as in the interest of the regime – or the region, rather,” they said.
For Nawaz Sharif-led government which has already been passing through testing times following Panama leaks which accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family for running offshore companies, US State Department’s refusal to provide Foreign military Funds for purchase of F-16 is not less than a bomb shell which has further cornered it.
Many in Pakistan believe it was a failure of managers of Pakistan’s diplomacy. Reportedly, Indian lobby in the United States has influenced Congress to hold sale of F-16s to Pakistan. However, opposition parties in Pakistan argued, Pakistan’s diplomats badly failed to evolve a strategy to counter Indian propaganda.
“Look, Indian lobby has done what it was supposed to do in their national Interest. But, It was our diplomats’ responsibility to make sure smooth supply of fighter jets,” said, Rana Mushtaq, foreign policy expert.
Disappointed by the US State department’s refusal to subsidize the sale of eight fighter jets, Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told media on Thursday that Pakistan has expressed its displeasure and conveyed strong message to the United States to maintain balance of power in this region. “Pakistan is still negotiating with the US officials for the purchase of F-16s and we have other options as well”, Sirtaj said.
Sirtaj Aziz said Pakistan was still in touch with USA to sort out ways to make the deal possible. However, Pakistan Observer learnt reliably, it was highly unlikely for Pakistan to get the fighter planes on subsidized rate.
On 21 October 2015, USA agreed to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan to fight militancy in Pakistan’s mountainous region bordering Afghanistan. According to a deal which was reached between the two sides earlier, Pakistan was to pay close to $270m (out of $700m), with the US foreign military financing budget paying for the rest.
On 12 Jan 2016, The US Congress had stalled the sale of eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. The US administration had received a ‘hold’ order from the Senate to delay the proposed sale.
US lawmakers had questioned about the end-use of F-16 and the US-Pakistan relationship. However, the Senate’s order didn’t cancel the proposed sale, and it could be approved if administration pushed for it.
On 14 Feb 2016, disappointed over the US’ decision to continue the sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan, the Centre had summoned US Ambassador Richard Verma to express its displeasure. India was upset that approving the $700-million-deal meant that India’s protests over the issue went disregarded.
Authorities stated that India would take the matter to the Obama administration as the deal would strengthen Pakistan’s ability to attack India.
Following by the Indian’s hue and cry, US congress in Feb-Mar 2016 disapproved F-16 deal. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher expressed Congress’ disapproval over the F-16 deal with Pakistan by introducing a joint resolution in the House of Representatives.
Interestingly, despite opposition from India and US lawmakers, the US government had formally notified about the F-16 deal with Pakistan.
In the federal notification, it was stated that the deal would help strengthen the security of a strategic South Asian partner.
In March, 2016, The US Senate had rejected a bill to withdraw the $700-million-deal despite opposition from US lawmakers.
Mehran Marri, the UNHRC and EU representative of Balochistan, had opposed the US’ decision to sell fighter jets to Pakistan as it might use them against Balochistan.
US ensured that an end-use monitoring system was put in place so that Pakistan would use the military-aid to fight terrorism.
All of a sudden on 29 Apr 2016, The US State Department dropped a bomb shell by announcing that it would no longer subsidize the $700-million-deal of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
It means that if Pakistan wishes to buy the fighters it would have to pay over $700 million (two-and-a-half times the subsidized cost).
The decision was taken after the US Congress has refused to sanction funding for the deal.
Following the US’ decision on the F-16 deal, Pakistan government expressed disappointment and displeasure asking the US administration to help them as they need the fighters for counter-terror operations.
Several lawmakers accused Pakistan of not fighting terrorism; they felt the fighters would be used to attack India and not combat terrorism. The US State Department stated that it wouldn’t use tax-payers’ money to subsidize eight F-16s to Pakistan.
Aziz added that Pakistan valued F-16s for their effectiveness but, they could use JF-17 Thunder jets as well in the anti-terrorism campaign.
Senior officials in Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office told Pakistan Observer that authorities have decided to make JF-17 Thunder fighters Pakistan Air Force’s backbone. JF-17 is developed jointly by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and Aviation Industry Corporation of China. JF-17s could be used for ground attack, aerial reconnaissance, and aircraft interception.

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