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Thursday, 19 May 2016

From Today's Papers - 19 May 2016

To buy or not to buy: F-16, Pak, US & India
D. Suba Chandran
There has been a vitriolic public debate in Pakistani media that includes accusing India for attempting to sabotage the sale of F-16s. What are the issues and where lies the problem? Will Pakistan succeed in getting the F-16s from the US?
F-16 fighter aircraft have become the latest bone of contention in the volatile Pakistan-US relations. During the last month, there have been a series of statements, demands, counter demands, threats and carrots, both from the US and Pakistan.

The sale of eight American F-16s to Pakistan has been plaguing the relations between the countries, primarily due to American demands on Pakistan “to do more in Afghanistan”, differences within the US between the State Department, White House and the Congress, and (more importantly) who would foot the bill for the sale.

While the first two seem to be getting addressed since February 2016, the sale is stuck with the last question: Should it be paid by the Pakistanis in full ($700 million) or be subsidised by American aid. Pakistan is willing to pay up to $270 million for the eight F-16s, but wants the rest to be covered by the US Foreign Military Funds.

The F-16s, now manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is state-of-art, all-weather multi-role fighter aircraft. Pakistan has placed an order for eight such aircraft, primarily to augment its air power, obviously vis-a-vis India. As a country, Pakistan has every right to structure its threat perceptions and pursue strategies to address them. In case of any military confrontation with India, Pakistan would need a quick strategic push in the initial days/hours; air superiority is essential for such an early but decisive strike vis-a-vis India. Else, the sheer size of Indian military machinery would bulldoze Pakistan in any long-drawn confrontation. If Pakistan has to lose any initial advantage, it would then have to fall back on nuclear options, which is a risky proposition.

Pakistan's need for F-16s is obvious. But the cost of eight F-16s ($700 million) is substantial. While the country's political leaders and others may have looted Pakistan and stocked the funds offshore, as the Panama Papers would reveal. They do not want to pay for the purchase from their national kitty. (According to Panama Papers, not only political leaders such as Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan have offshore investments, even scientists such as AQ Khan possess them). Pakistan would rather want that the entire sale of eight F-16s from the US to be heavily subsidised by Washington, as part of the American aid to Islamabad, with no conditions attached. From the American side, there are serious questions. First, there is a problem between the institutions. While the State Department would want to go ahead with the deal (by subsidising the sale through the American Foreign Military Fund, so that Pakistan ends up paying only $270 million), the Congress has serious objections. With a Republican majority, the debates within the US Congress in recent years have become nuanced and shrill vis-a-vis Pakistan. They demand accountability from Pakistan in terms of its policies and actions vis-a-vis Afghanistan, and the GHQ-ISI role in the War against Terrorism. Since 2001, during the last 15 years, Pakistan has lost many of its friends in the Congress. It is today seen as undependable. Since the US has substantially invested in Pakistan through military aid, both the Congressmen and the Senators have been repeatedly asking for accountability for the American funds provided and end results in fighting all the militant groups in the Af-Pak region, including the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network. Obama's descent (and thereby the White House's) in the American foreign policy and his disillusionment with Pakistan (as could be observed from some of his recent statements) has not helped Pakistan's case in the US Congress.

Despite this, the US Congress could still be persuaded to support the F-16 deal — meaning subsidise the sale through American aid. For that, the US Congress would want solid promises by Pakistan supported by actions in the ground in fighting all militant groups and helping the US achieve peace in Afghanistan. But for Pakistan, such a “precondition” is unacceptable. It wants the F-16s. And it wants them to be subsidised by US aid, with no conditions. As a response, Pakistan is pursuing a strategy that would only further rupture its relations with the US.

First, there is an un-informed debate (perhaps purposefully fuelled), based on Pakistan's national pride and sacrifices in the War on Terrorism. A section tries to project that the US is trying to “get” Pakistan and make it subservient to Washington's regional strategy. The following is from an editorial in a leading newspaper: “Pakistan is expected to deliver peace in Afghanistan, allow Balochistan to secede and accept Indian hegemony and it is expected to do so meekly and immediately.” There have also been reports linking India to have played a role in scuttling the deal. One of the leading newspapers in its editorial cartoon, projected Modi as a bigger anaconda and Obama as a smaller viper, saying “yes boss”. Such projections and “back- stabbing” narratives will further increase the anti-American sentiments. Perhaps, it is a calculated assault to convince the “naive” Americans that they have to do something to arrest the anti-American sentiments. Else, the jihadis will cash in on these.

Second, as Sartaj Aziz proclaimed that Pakistan would look elsewhere, if the US blocks the deal. According to him, “If the US arranges funds, Pakistan will get the F-16s from them, otherwise we will opt for jets from some other place.” True, there are other options for Pakistan — France and Russia — but will they help Pakistan by subsidising? Sukhoi can be a replacement for F-16, but will the Russians be willing to sell at a subsidised cost? Or, will China be able to underwrite?

The best option for Pakistan will be to provide few promises silently to the US, and take fewer military actions at the ground level. And to use those friendly elements in the State Department to convince the US Congress that Pakistanis are doing enough, so the sale could be subsidised or perhaps, bargained further. This is the most likely scenario. Unless, the US Congress backed by an increasingly hostile media (vis-a-vis Pakistan), scuttles the deal completely. That means an entire different scenario, with a tougher road ahead for US and Pakistan.

The writer is a Professor at National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore.
Indian army successfully test fires Prithvi-II ballistic missile

BHUBANESWAR: The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Indian army on Wednesday conducted a fresh user trial of surface-to-surface short range ballistic missile (MRBM) Prithvi-II from a defence base off the Odisha coast.

The indigenously built nuclear capable missile was test launched from a Mobile Tatra transporter-erector Launcher (MTL) at the launching complex-III of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at about 9.40 am reconfirming the armed forces' preparedness to launch the missile in a war like scenario.

A defence official said the missile was fired as part of operational exercise by the armed forces. "While the personnel of the army launched the missile on their own, DRDO provided all logistic supports. The missile used for the test was picked up randomly from the production line to check its effectiveness and killing precision," he said.

Carrying a dummy payload, the missile rose into the sky leaving behind a chain of thick smoke. It travelled along the intended trajectory perfectly before splashing down at the point of impact after covering the desired distance.

A naval ship located at the impact point tracked and monitored the missile. All the radars and other sensors along the east coast also monitored the missile’s trajectory parameters.

"The missile attained an altitude of around 44 km and covered the distance in nearly eight minutes. It has achieved single digit accuracy reaching close to zero circular error probability (CEP). The entire flight path of the missiles was smooth in accordance with pre-decided coordinates," the official said.

Prithvi, the first missile developed under Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), has the capability to carry 500 Kg to 1000 kg of warhead. It has a length of nine meters with one metre diameter. It is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engine and uses Advanced Inertial Guidance System (AIGS) with maneouring trajectory.

The missile weighing around 4.6 tonne uses an inertial guidance system with reasonably good accuracy and the warhead uses a radar correlation terminal guidance system. It can target mobile targets including unmanned aerial vehicles.

Centre could make army first line of defence along LoC
It has been stated in a report that Army will protect defence installation and paramilitary forces will guard the civilian installations which are of importance within 25-km radius from the LoC.
An important meet related to Jammu and Kashmir issue took place at Home Minsiter Rajnath Singh's residence and was attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, MoS PMO Jitendra Singh, National General Secretary Ram Madhav, NSA Ajit Doval and the Home Secretary.

Deployment of the paramillitary forces at the Line of Control (LoC) was discussed in the meeting, said sources. A detailed report was made by the NSA after the Pathankot attack and there were three major gap points which were found along the LoC in J&K and Punjab border.

As of now, paramilitary forces alongside the Army is deployed across the LoC. However, according to a new plan, Army will be at the first line of defence and then the paramilitary will be stretched along these three gap points.

Apart from this, it has been stated in the report that Army will protect defence installation and paramilitary forces will guard the civilian installations which are of importance within 25-km radius from the LoC.

Though no final decision has been taken in this regard, but this is the second time this proposal has been discussed.

The disbursement of funds from the Centre to the state was also discussed in the meeting. According to reports, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made it very clear that she is not happy with the disbursement process and wants it be a quicker.

The meeting also focussed on terror groups in the state. It has been revealed that there are 5 active terror camps which have been identified by the intelligence agencies.

Another important topic which was part of the discussion was cooperation of the state government to prevent luring of the Kashmiri youth towards these camps and internet freedom in the valley.

The government is working on a policy for the state where they will prevent radicalisation through web but at the same time give the youth of Kashmir, complete access to the world.

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