Why is the United States propping up Pakistan in a way that it knows will likely conflict directly with Indian interests? It’s a question being raised with increasing frequency here in New Delhi these days.
The most immediate concern for the Indian establishment has been the US decision to supply sophisticated weapons to Pakistan—weaponry that is much more useful in state-to-state conflict than counter-terrorism (for which it is virtually useless). Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue with US President Barack Obama during their 50-minute bilateral meeting in Washington DC earlier this month, having already done so during his previous visit to the United States.
During the meeting, Singh urged Washington to ensure that US military aid to Pakistan is used against terrorists and not against India. But for now, at least, the pleas appear to be falling on deaf ears. The United States is, after all, determined to increase its leverage with Pakistan over operations in Afghanistan, and the US also appears to believe that such aid is required to ensure the survival of the civilian government there.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
As a result, the US State Department is increasing its funds for Pakistan’s counter-insurgency efforts—which will allow Pakistan to buy more US helicopters, night vision goggles and other military equipment—from $700 million this year to $1.2 billion in 2011.
Yet reports suggest Pakistan has been using its national funds to buy US weapons more suited to conflict between states—and it surely would have traditional rival India in mind when doing so. According to the US Congressional Research Service, the current tally of US arms that have been purchased by Pakistan since 2001 includes: 18 new F-16 combat aircraft; F-16 armaments including 500 AIM-120C5 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) systems; 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles; 500 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles; six Phalanx close-in naval guns; P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and their refurbishment; 121 TOW missile launchers and about 5,250 TOW anti-armour missiles.
None of these could be viewed as for anti-terrorist operations—the P-3C Orion, for example, is an excellent anti-submarine and anti-ship platform, while TOW missiles would be deadly against tanks. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have no submarines, armoured fighting vehicles or airplanes. So who is the most likely intended target? It makes New Delhi wonder.
Pakistan doesn’t need sophisticated weaponry to fight terrorists—what it needs (and is lacking) is the political and military will to go after them. And, while Pakistan certainly needs more economic aid, any such assistance should only be provided by the United States if it can ensure that Pakistan does not misuse it to buy armaments.
As Indian Defense Minister AK Antony stated on March 6,‘the US decision to supply sophisticated arms to Pakistan is a matter of serious concern to New Delhi as the experience has been that these are used against India.’ He also reiterated that India believes the US government should make sure that these weapons are deployed on the Pakistan-Afghan border against Taliban, not diverted towards the Indo-Pakistan border.