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From the Editor: Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui

June 3, 2005


Pakistan Accountability Act

While recent Bollywood movies like Veer-Zara and Mae Hoon Na tend to supplement the current Indo-Pak peace process, there is little evidence to suggest that the acrimony plaguing relations between Pakistan and India since the inception of the two countries has subsided. It has only turned latent but retains its post-1947 animus testifying afresh to the validity of the two-nation theory.
The trend has found a manifest expression in the charged attitude of the Indian lobbies and their hectic maneuverings at Capitol Hill following Washington’s announcement to supply the F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. The lobbies have wasted no time and acted with expedition to scuttle any positive outcome of the announcement.
A proposed Pakistan Accountability Act 2005, introduced by Gary Ackerman, has been referred to the House Committee on International Relations. It states:
“No United States military assistance may be provided to Pakistan and no military equipment or technology may be sold, transferred, or licensed for sale to Pakistan … unless the president first certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the government of Pakistan has provided the Untied States with unrestricted opportunities to interview the Pakistani nuclear scientist, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan …; the government of Pakistan has complied with requests for assistance from the international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) …” and so on. This is a disconcerting development and warrants a reiteration of our observation The F-16s Announcement and After of April 8 on the subject:
The good news came after an exasperating wait of fifteen years. For many Pakistanis who had fumed over the inordinate delay, the recent Washington announcement for the supply of the F-16 aircraft sounded like music to the ears. Thank you, President Bush! A new vision of US-Pakistan ties is beginning to crystallize. Indisputably, there has been of late a marked surge in Washington’s support for Islamabad
President Musharraf’s statement on the sale carries a ring of truth: “The … acquisition of F-16s would certainly enhance the effective punch of our defense…it is our longstanding demand which has now been met. It will also help our strategy of defensive deterrence.”
As expected, stern critics of Islamabad fumed over the announcement prompting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to promptly spell out the motivations for the US decision. “Pakistan has come a long way, it’s on a better trajectory than it’s ever been, or that it’s been in many, many, years.” Struck by the conclusions of the September 9/11 Commission - invest in the relationship with Pakistan, because if you don’t you’re going to create the same situation we created in the 90s - Dr Rice explained why the US is now more energetically responding to Pakistan’s needs.
Ryan C. Crocker, US Ambassador to Pakistan, seemed to elaborate on this explanation: The US desires to establish long-term, broad-based multidimensional relations with Pakistan, not as a favor to Islamabad but for mutual benefit. Perhaps, the roller-coaster phase of US-Pakistan relations is over and indications are that a firmly structured relationship between the two countries is beginning to crystallize.
Yet, the Washington announcement on the sale of the F-16 fighters to Pakistan and the F-18s to India occasioned both jubilation and anguish in Pakistan. The public response became markedly muffled as the realization dawned on many that Pakistan - a reliable ally in the forefront of the US war on terror at considerable peril to its own security - had not been treated at par with its adversarial neighbor whose earlier adventurous association with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and later aberrations in opportunistically changing course at will, are too well known. The logic of showing readiness to supply the more advanced F-18 planes to India is indeed hard to swallow.
So also the servile urgings of quite a few key influential Americans to India to buy the F-18 plane. How could one explain the recent exhortation of Mike Kelly, Senior Executive of Lockheed Martin, to Delhi: “If India’s requirements are beyond any existing fighters, we are prepared to make upgraded F-16s to India’s specifications with complete transfer of technology.”
US Ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, also had the same obsequious tone when he announced: “We will find out what kind of plane India wants and how we do technology transfer and also be reliable.”
Surprisingly, US Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan C. Crocker furnished a singularly grotesque explanation in trying to dispel the impression that the F-18s were in any way superior to the F-16s: “The F-16s are used by the US Air Force and the F-18s by the US Navy. Both are equally efficient in their functions and one is not superior to the other!”
Mike Nipper, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, however, thinks differently. An F-16, according to him, is a single-engine, land-based fighter jet that costs upward of $35 million. The F-18, a more advanced fighter, is a double-engine, carrier-based aircraft, which is up to 30 per cent heavier than the F-16. “The cost of the F-18 is considerably higher,” Nipper says, explaining that the jets sell “by the pound.”
As the campaign to appease India on the sale of the F-16s to Pakistan continues, the media in the US and India and influential political circles in Washington and Delhi, unabashedly express their indignation at Washington’s decision. A small sampling:
“I am bewildered by this decision. It is strategically such a bad move.” - Former Senator Larry Pressler.
“This sale sends a grave symbolic message to the government and people of India. We are slighting our relationship with India, a fellow democracy, to sell a defense system to a neighboring non-democratic nation, who has shown an unwillingness to normalize relations with India, …” - Congressman Frank Pallone
“The announcement Friday that the United States is authorizing the sale to Pakistan of F-16 fighter jets capable of delivering nuclear warheads - and thereby escalating the region’s nuclear race - is the latest example of how the most important issue on the planet is being bungled by the Bush administration…” - Robert Scheer in an article in the Los Angeles Times
“Balancing those sales by offering New Delhi the chance to purchase, and perhaps build, similar planes doesn’t lessen the damage of the Pakistan sale. It compounds it.” - New York Times.
“Pakistan, it appears is being rewarded, here and now, for … its abominable record on proliferation.” - The Hindustan Times.
Blissfully, the Wall Street Journal appeared to present just the opposite view, nay, an objective assessment: New Delhi has raised some objections but its more substantive response has been that it may consider buying a more sophisticated US jet fighter, F-18, and is ready for an expanded strategic relationship. The F-16 is famous for its ability to deliver air strikes with pinpoint accuracy, and is thus a valuable asset in Islamabad’s war on terrorists hiding in the rugged terrain near Afghanistan….
“The argument that Pakistan wants the F-16 to deliver nuclear weapons to India, a fellow nuclear power, ignores the fact it can already do that in other ways if it wishes to commit suicide.
“In fact, relations between the two states haven’t been this good for years and don’t look to be derailed by the plane sales.
“President Pervez Musharraf is due in New Delhi to watch the grand finale of the India-Pakistan cricket series.
“Indo-US relations have also reached a new maturity, President Bush who is due to visit India this or next month personally informed Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the decision to sell the planes to Islamabad. Mr. Singh expressed ‘great disappointment’, an obligatory response because of Indian domestic politics. But more significant is what his Defense Minister Parnab Mukerjee told the Press Trust of India: If the military aircraft and other weapons needed for our national interest are available from the United States, we will certainly consider them.”
It is not difficult to infer who stands to gain more from Washington’s decision to supply the F-16s to Pakistan.
The bill introduced by Gary Ackerman was hardly warranted. So also the latest maneuverings by the Indian lobbies at Capitol Hill.

- afaruqui@pakistanlink.com


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 pakistanlink.com . All Rights Reserved.