F-16s and Indian acrimony

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Delhi’s deep rooted insecurity

 

The growling in Indian stomachs started last year when in May the US handed over to Pakistan a chunk of used military hardware; over 14 combat aircraft, 59 military trainer jets and 374 armoured personnel carriers. The pronouncement of selling eight more F-16s by the Obama administration, in an attempt to shore up the two countries’ relationship despite Washington’s reservations about Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal, was like sprinkling salt on Indian injuries. The Indians with the support of western media and categorically The New York Times as the flag bearer of a malicious campaign triggered controversy about the supply, maintaining that the aircraft will be used against India and not against terrorist outfits.

One could figure out the reasons behind the Indians’ lost sleep. It was mainly because of two reasons; firstly, the supply of this military hardware and used equipment on the request of Pakistan was approved by the US State Department within no time as a rare instance; a clear sign displaying the US’s firm faith about Pakistan to be a country of vital importance for US foreign policy and national interests. The second reason is the Indians’ own doing and has got nothing to do with Pakistan since it is India’s own confusion and inefficiency that the latter has not been able to choose their MCA (main combat aircraft) till date, which was to replace the MIG-21; the stooping backbone of Indian Air Force by 2012. Thanks to those few worried Indian brains who at least decided to swap current main combat aircrafts MIG-21 and 27 with the indigenously built HAL Teja, though Teja too is in a puzzling state.

All the MIG-21 aircraft of IAF are to be phased out by 2022 or 2025, which are to be replaced by the HAL Tejas; an indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) that has taken decades to develop. But IAF officers widely express scepticism and contempt about the class of the Teja Mark I, while the production of Mark II is increasingly delayed. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has made efforts to push a slightly improved Mark IA but this seems unlikely to be met with enthusiasm by those who actually have to fly the aircraft in combat.

At the classy end is the T-50, a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), part of Russia’s PAK-FA program, whose first prototype flew in 2010 and has been in testing since. Sadly, India is co-developing the aircraft merely on paper, while practically India’s role is degradingly restricted to tyre and radar coolant production only. Recently there has been growing discontentment among the IAF since the Russians treat Indians like broods. Moreover, the sane among the Indians raised protested against turning the IAF into a total Russian fleet for another generation and the risks of betting heavily on an unproven platform, with obvious doubts over the aircraft’s engines, stealth features, weapons carriage, radar, and safety. Surprisingly, soon after Modi’s taking oath as PM, two quick slashes in the prospective order were made by him; in September 2014 and again in August 2015, a total cut down of 70 per cent, from ten squadrons (220 aircraft) to just three (63 aircraft).

Coming back to the F16 deal, the Indian lobby and their American well wishers had a very strong hope that the Congress would block the aircraft sales. The newspaper on behest of the Indian lobby widely propagated that Congress was not willing to approve the deal. It has become common practice that whenever there is a talk of military hardware supply to Pakistan, the anti-Pakistan forces with India in lead immediately start beating the drum about Pakistan’s so-called nuclear expansion program. Even in this case when the US showed intentions about handing-over eight F16 to Pakistan, the so-called nuclear analysts started an uncalled for debate in the media. In a report released in late October 2015, two ‘authoritative’ [sic] nuclear analysts Hans M Kristensen and Robert S Norris anticipated that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons stockpile will possibly expand further to 220 to 250 warheads in the coming 10 years, to make Pakistan the world’s fifth largest nuclear weapons state following the United States, Russia, China and France.

Now the question arises as to why US is offering Pakistan the F-16s? An easy answer known to any sane person remains that Pakistan is a key player in the region (whether the Indians like it or not). Its known to all that if the Afghan Taliban at all listen to anyone then it’s either KSA or Pakistan and while bowing to this factor the Americans remarkably altered their perspective vis-à-vis Afghanistan during the last two years.

To the sheer frustration of the Indians, about two weeks back, the US government finally disclosed approving the sale of eight F16 fighter jets, radars and other equipment to Pakistan and a day before announcing it, the Pentagon’s Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified the lawmakers about the possible sale. New Delhi’s depression over the Pentagon’s choice was quite tacit; hence India’s foreign secretary summoned the US ambassador for India to convey the country’s ‘displeasure’ over the possible sale. A US government official, while responding to Indian reaction, befittingly set aside India’s objections to the F-16 deal and stated, “We support the proposed sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan, which we view as the right platform in support of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. These operations reduce the ability of militants to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism and it is in the national interests of both Pakistan and the United States, and in the interest of the region more broadly”. Although US lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, nevertheless, such action is rare, as deals like this are well-vetted before any formal notification. The Pentagon Press Secretary Petro Cook also availed the opportunity to snub India and made blunt comments about India’s needless anxiety. While addressing a briefing highlighting the Indian concern, he said that the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan should not be of concern to India and the deal took into account the regional security situation.

Parallel to this ‘shut-up call’ by Pentagon, Indian conspiracies were thwarted by senior diplomats in Washington who remained engaged with Capitol Hill and met several Senators and Congressmen to make a case for Pakistan. Analysts believe the proposed sale will improve Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats without disturbing the basic military balance in the region. PAF currently operates 76 F-16 fighters. The latest sale, if it goes through, will boost the fleet to 84 aircraft.

It’s high time for Indians to stop showing unease over Pakistan’s military ability. One can appreciate the Indian pain over Pakistan’s improving strategic capabilities, nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that India instead of putting their air force in order starts protesting over Pakistan’s battle readiness.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Are you talking about the military ability of pakistan that lost 3 wars against India, one in which pakistan was cut into two parts?

  2. This fellow is delusional. They are merely selling you junk and the Russians will do the same. Pakistan isnt any strategic player , its role is confined to the sphere of terrorism and Afghanistan. But owing to your strategic depth , you lost your business, people, economy and industry over the years for the sheer greed of exercising influence over Afghanistan , which you have miserably failed and will continue to fail. Im not sure how a country which fails at every level , tries to save democracy in another war-torn country. I request this writer to visit Afghanistan and enquire about what they feel with regards to Pakistan and its army.

  3. What a bunch of losers. Get your history wrong, then the substance. The planes are for our airforce, you Indians did not want it to happen. We got them you could not stop it. We win you lose.

  4. What a moronic writer, There's no mention of Su-30, the backbone of IAF now. Moreover, he spells HAL Tejas as Teja. How are such substandard articles with no research even permitted on this site?

    • No dpoubt you are a Moronic Author. One ccan understand your pain. Around 200 plus, minus SU30 and you call it your backbone? Teja? Yes it deserves to be called Teja. Let it be operational first and then talk of it. It gives immense pleasure when there is a "Jalnay ki Boo"

  5. you fellows think russia is restricting indian contribution in T50. What china did with you about jf17

  6. This hype that India is loosing sleep is media created. India has far too many planes and is way ahead of Pakistan in conventional arms. India's headache lies with China and it is working on shielding itself from huge expenditure on defense by China. Chinese also assure India as they are more broiled in South China sea issues and don't want India as adversary.

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