US Uses Arms Sales to Strengthen Ties with South Asian Regional Rivals
 
(Source: Voice of America news; issued March 28, 2005)
 
 
WASHINGTON --- The Bush administration announced last week it would sell F-16 warplanes to Pakistan. But often overlooked was the simultaneous announcement that the United States would also sell arms, including F-16s, to India. The United States is engaged in a delicate balancing act in South Asia.

The real surprise about the U.S. offer to sell some F-16 warplanes to Pakistan, say analysts of South Asian affairs, was India's relatively muted reaction to the move.

President Bush took the step of calling Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to alert him to the upcoming announcement. And India also got a U.S. pledge that it, too, would be allowed to purchase arms, including F-16s.

Sumit Ganguly, director of the Indian Studies program at Indiana University at Bloomington, says that because of those actions, the reaction from New Delhi was less vocal than might have been expected in the past. "Consequently, while the Indians are somewhat piqued and irritated by the renewal of an arms transfer relationship with Pakistan, much of the sting of this message has actually been removed," he said.

A South Asia analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Christine Fair, says India gains in the deal as well because Washington is trying to bolster its renewed relationship with New Delhi. "India is in some sense the long-term winner in all of this," she said. "Obviously, India gets a lot of stuff as well. But over the long term India is very much our partner. If you look at the kinds of stuff that the Indian military is doing with the U.S. military, it is qualitatively different than the stuff that the United States is doing with the Pakistan military."

Ms. Fair says the United States is engaged in a broader range of military training and exercises with India than it is with Pakistan. The sale to Pakistan is seen in many quarters as gratitude to its president, General Pervez Musharraf, for his help in fighting terrorism, especially in flushing out Taleban and al-Qaida remnants along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

But Terence Taylor, head of the U.S. office of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, says more is involved than a mere thank you gesture. "I think there's more substance than a thank-you. I think General Musharraf, although president of Pakistan, needs to demonstrate to his military that their fight against terrorism is recognized, that the military are getting the equipment they need - they've had a longstanding need for this type of aircraft. And so I think it helps stability in a sense in Pakistan, and in particular President Musharraf's relations with his own military," he said.

But Sumit Ganguly of Indiana University says there is concern in New Delhi about how the arms sale might affect President Musharraf's attitude toward India. "There is a worry in Indian circles that this might send a wrong message to Musharraf, who might basically think he has carte blanche from the United States to pretty much offer or not offer the Indians what he wants," he said. "In my view, this would be a serious mistake on the part of General Musharraf, but hardly unknown on the part of military regimes."

Pakistan has long wanted F-16s to bolster its aging air fleet. But an order of 28 of the jets was halted in 1990 under a bill sponsored by then-Senator Larry Pressler, a Republican from South Dakota. The Pressler Amendment barred U.S. military exports to Pakistan if it was suspected of having a nuclear weapon. Since then both India and Pakistan have conducted nuclear tests.

Pakistan greatly resented the law, feeling that it had been used by the United States as a proxy in fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, then unceremoniously spurned. Jamsheed Marker, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, says the current sale will help to heal the wounds left by Washington's hot-and-cold policy toward Islamabad.

"It's always been an up-and-down affair. There's always been - certainly in Pakistan - an element of doubt about the long-term sincerity of this relationship. And, as I said, I think this will go a long, long way towards settling that in a satisfactory manner, in a favorable fashion. In other words, I think it will help turn opinion in Pakistan," he said.

Former Senator Larry Pressler remains adamantly opposed to any arms transfers to Pakistan. In a VOA telephone interview, he says F-16 sales have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. "I am opposed to it because I don't see any relationship between the F-16s and terrorism. Now, we have repaid Pakistan many times over for the assistance that Pakistan gave us," he said. "However, Pakistan has done some things against us. They proliferated nuclear weapons to Libya, [North] Korea, and lots of other places."

The sales must still have approval from the U.S. Congress. But as Terence Taylor points out, the fact that Congress is controlled by Republicans probably means there will no repeat of a Pressler-type bid to halt arms sales to Pakistan. (ends)

US to Sell F-16 Fighter Planes to Pakistan
 
(Source: Voice of America news; issued March 25, 2005)
 
 
WASHINGTON --- The Bush administration said Friday it is notifying Congress of plans to sell U.S. F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. U.S. officials say it will not affect the military balance in the region, though India has expressed displeasure.

The decision to sell Pakistan what officials here say will be a relatively small number of F-16s had been under consideration for several months.

Formal notice of the action was sent to Congress Friday, while President Bush telephoned Indian Prime Minister Monmohan Singh to tell him of the move, drawing what an Indian government spokesman said was an expression of great disappointment.

Senior administration officials who briefed reporters here tied the aircraft sale to what one described as the strategic decision by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to stand with the United States after the September 11 terrorist attacks of 2001.

They said the transfer of the planes would not affect the military balance in the region, in part because India will likely proceed, with the blessing of the United States, with its own purchase of advanced aircraft, American F-16s or F-18s, or planes from another supplier.

One U.S. official said the recent warming of relations between India and Pakistan may be the most significant since the two countries' independence after the partition in 1947.

They acknowledged that a roll-back of the progress was possible, but said U.S. policy, including the aircraft sales, was helping the process by, among other things, making Pakistan more secure in its dealings with its larger neighbor.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the weapons sales and the broader U.S. relationship with the two South Asian powers during the trip to South and East Asia she completed Monday.

They say Ms. Rice laid out a broader conceptual relationship that envisages India's emergence as a major world power in the coming years, with closer strategic relations with the United States in such areas as missile defense and possible weapons co-production.

On a separate track is a long-term U.S. commitment to Pakistan to reward President Musharraf for risky decisions to tackle al-Qaida terrorism and shut down the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, and to help advance democratization there.

The Bush administration last year designated Pakistan a major non-NATO ally, and committed more than a billion dollars in military aid.

Pakistan already has some older-model F-16s in its arsenal, and has been seeking more since 1990, when a deal for 40 more planes fell through, because of U.S. Congressional concerns about its nuclear program.

Though officials here were not specific, the new sale reportedly would involve about 25 F-16s, the type and capabilities to be subject to further negotiation.
A Pakistani government spokesman welcomed the U.S. decision as a good gesture that could ease anti-American sentiment in the Muslim country.

India has reportedly been in the market for as many as 125 new fighter jets.

A White House spokeswoman said, in his conversation with Indian Prime Minister Singh, President Bush said the United States will respond positively to India's request for bids for new planes, though he noted this does not constitute a sale. (ends)

India to Consider Buying Military Hardware from US
 
(Source: Voice of America news; issued March 28, 2005)
 
 
NEW DELHI --- India says it will consider buying military equipment from the United States. The comment comes days after New Delhi protested a U.S. decision to sell F-16 fighter jets to rival Pakistan.

Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee says Washington's offer to sell sophisticated defense equipment to India is a "positive development". He says India will consider the offer of fighter jets as it weighs the requirements of its armed forces.

The defense minister was responding to Washington's recent announcement that it will allow U.S. companies to bid for a large Indian order for combat aircraft. The U.S. decision came along with an announcement that it was selling F-16 jets to Pakistan.

India has expressed disappointment over the sale of the fighter aircraft to Islamabad. However, Indian analysts say New Delhi is not unduly perturbed, because Washington also indicated it is willing to boost defense and energy ties with India.

Indian media reports have said F-16s and the multi-role F-18 combat aircraft will be offered to New Delhi.

A security analyst at the independent Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, Bharat Karnad, says such offers signal that relations between India and the United States are on a new track. "In so far as it is indicative of a new way of thinking, it is all right," he said. "It is symbolic of the better relations that we have right now."

New Delhi also welcomed Washington's announcement that it is considering offering India technology for civilian nuclear energy. On Monday, Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said India will harness more nuclear power to meet its huge energy requirements. He did not refer directly to Washington, but said technology from other countries will help New Delhi in this goal.

"As an energy-deficit nation, India has placed considerable importance on nuclear energy in its energy mix … the pace of this development can be accelerated with greater international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy," said Mr. Singh.

However, he also lashed out at the leading nuclear powers for not controlling the illegal spread of nuclear weapons technology. While he did not name countries, his comments apparently were a reference to the secret trade in nuclear technology by the now disgraced head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

India became a nuclear power when it tested a nuclear bomb in 1998. Days later, Pakistan did the same. The United States imposed economic sanctions on both governments, but those have since largely ended.

India and the United States were on opposite sides in the Cold War years, but in recent years the world's largest democracies have forged a warm relationship, expanding both defense and economic cooperation.

-ends-

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