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Islamabad

March 17, 2016

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Mixed signals from the US

Pakistan has endured human, material, psychological and subsistence set back of colossal enormity for carrying forward the US navigated and Nato piloted war on terror in this region since 9/11. Entire squad of the perpetrators of twin-tower massacre belonged to Arab world, trained in the US by the American flying clubs but not a single individual from Pakistan or Afghanistan could be blotched till today for involvement in this history making barbarism. These two countries have hitherto suffered and still continue paying the penalty for an offence that was hauled by others. Whatever cost is already paid so far and potentially will be paid in the coming years by people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, is in effect simply to maintain the US and its western allies' interests protected. Pakistan being a long time ally has never spontaneously dispelled this strategic association with the global power and will obviously continue to keep this arrangement in future despite many forthcoming challenges as well as persuasive opportunities from other directions.

Nevertheless, war on terror implicitly crooked progressively into the Pakistan's proprietary by a group of adversaries more so by using the strategy and tactics of blowing back as well as engineering and sponsoring the actions of terror groups against people and security forces of Pakistan while fabricating accusations of harbouring one particular group as a veritable arm of spy agency. However, once the democratic umbrella was provided through the National Action Plan, Pakistan's security forces led from front under the dynamic leadership of General Raheel Sharif, terrorism without any discrimination, is almost being replaced slowly but surely with peace and prosperity.

Save for some of the lawmakers of US, interests of India have at the moment taken precedence over the US priority against previously defined and articulated primary interest of the US led west which was more concerned about existence of trouble along Pak-Afghan border. The US hawks have steadily altered the priority by assuming the responsibility for smartly connecting the US interests with India's security. According to Michael Krepon, a well-read nuclear analyst from America, the US-Pakistan relations are never stress-free as they remained zigzagged particularly after Salala incident and 2nd May, 2011 trespassing of the US SEAL team into Pakistan's territory to pick up the dead body of Osama bin laden from Abbottabad.

At issue now is whether the US Congress will allow the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan at subsidised rates, if at all. The issue came to the fore when US Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. In a letter to Kerry on Feb 9, 2016 Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Committee, raised strong objections to F-16 sale on the argument that Pakistan has failed to take sufficient action against groups that carry out violent acts outside its borders, which he means India. By acknowledging the stance of the US lawmakers like Bob Corker who is making an effort to block the F-16 sale, the United States in effect sends the wrong signal about Pakistan’s counter-terrorism campaign. 

Meanwhile an official statement followed the US announcement about its intention to sell F-16 jets to Pakistan. During a recent news briefing, Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesman at State Department said that tensions between India and Pakistan equally worry the US. Yet he profusely urged Pakistan to continue dialogue on matters other than geopolitical disputes with India to ease some of those tensions.

While replying to a deliberate question pushed by the Indian lobbyists about the alleged increase in Pakistan's tactical nuclear weapons, Toner believed that the US is concerned about the security of nuclear weapons and said that' has been a common refrain in discussions with Pakistan. He sidestepped to say something similar or even less passionate about India.

The US officials like Toner and lawmakers like Bob, who try to infuse mistaken perceptions about Pakistan's counter terror efforts as well as nuclear posture, are equally against allowing the jets sale, terming that the US may appear complicit in Islamabad’s relationship with militant organisations linked to terror attacks in India and Afghanistan. Arraignment against Pakistan, while citing the fluidness of situation, are taking place at a faster pace ahead of the forthcoming two days Nuclear Security Summit at Washington from March 31, 2016, supplemented with the claims of Pakistan sending mixed messages about cross-border terrorism. 

These skewed opinions favouring India in effect advocate, not really first time sale of F-16, at full price to scoop the economy of Pakistan and with an added determination to trigger a debate within the country and elsewhere against 'over budgeted' nuclear programme of Pakistan despite the fact that it is defensive in nature and insistently Indian centric by any definition. Pakistan must argue in favour of releasing the planes as early as possible because price has already been paid for and releasing them will argument operation against terrorists who are now on the run. This is also an opportunity for the US to realign its zigzagged relations with Pakistan which is determined to increase its economic power with the assistance of time tested friends.

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