Indian FM to US: “You’re Not Fooling Anybody With Reason for Pakistan’s F-16 Support”
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Ahmed Adel, Cairo-based geopolitics and political economy researcher
During a press conference on September 26, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “We don’t view our relationship with Pakistan, and on the other hand, we don’t view our relationship with India as in relation to one another. These are both partners of ours with different points of emphasis in each.”
The comments by Price were preceded by Ely Ratner, US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, who claimed on September 22 that “The decision inside the US government was made on US interests on our defence partnership with Pakistan which is primarily focussed on counter-terrorism and nuclear security.”
The comments by Price came only hours after visiting Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar rejected the logic that the F-16 sustainment package approved by Washington for Pakistan was to fight terrorism. Jaishankar said that everybody knows where and against whom F-16 fighter jets are used, an indirect reference that Pakistan uses them against India.
“You are not fooling anybody by saying these things,” Jaishankar said in response to a question during an interaction with Indian-Americans.
Earlier this month, Washington approved a $450 million F-16 fighter jet fleet maintenance programme to Pakistan, reversing the decision of the previous Trump administration to suspend military aid to Islamabad for providing safe havens for the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. It is actually rather disdainful for Washington to expect New Delhi to accept the reasoning as being for counter-terrorism operations since Pakistan is arguably the terrorist capital of the world.
It is recalled that Pakistan has appeared on the FATF grey list, a global watchdog for terror financing and money laundering, since 2008. Most recently, a September 13 report by the Asia-Pacific Group of the FATF rated Pakistan’s level of effectiveness as “low” on 10 out of 11 international goals on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terror.
In addition, it is also common knowledge that Pakistan played a double-game with the US during its occupation of Afghanistan. On the one side, it was supporting US operations with logistics and bases, but on the other it continued supporting radical extremists.
Pakistan’s cultivation and support for jihadist organisations has been a constant source of terrorism for India, with the most famous example perhaps being the 2008 Mumbai attacks where 175 people died after Pakistani terrorists reached India’s largest city by boat and committed their attacks. This is just one example of terrorism against India emanating from Pakistan and an insight on why the country remains on the FATF grey list.
India has legitimate security concerns for its citizens’ safety and sovereignty of its territory. With Pakistan and India locked in decades of wars and rivalry, especially over ownership claims on Jammu and Kashmir, the former has never been afraid to weaponize jihadists to achieve its goals. To deal with this hybrid warfare, India has had to take measures that has caused ire in the Western World.
Jaishankar slammed mainstream American media, particularly the Washington Post, for its “biased” coverage of India when speaking to Indian-Americans on September 25 in Washington.
“I look at the media. There are some newspapers, you know exactly what they are going to write, including one in this town,” he said. “My point is there are biases… the more India goes its way and the people who believe that they were the custodians and the shapers of India lose ground in India the more actually, some of these debaters are going to come outside.”
His comments came only two days after the New York Times claimed that the Indian government has been “stifling dissent, sidelining civilian institutions and making minorities second-class citizens”. It also comes months after a report by the US State Department on “human rights practices” claimed that India has “significant human rights issues.”
However, as Jaishankar pointed out when speaking about the situation in Kashmir, the West are more concerned about internet access than peoples safety: “If there are Indian soldiers or Indian policemen who are abducted; If there are people working for the government, or citizens going about their business, who will lose their lives?…There is a big song and dance about the internet being cut. Now, if you’ve reached the stage where you say an internet cut is more dangerous than the loss of human lives, then what can I say?”
Washington believed that because India joined QUAD to oppose China, alongside the US, Australia and Japan, the country is fully absorbed into its sphere of influence. Rather, Washington is learning that India serves its own interests, and in a way that they think best serves their country.
Even in joining QUAD, India has not turned against Russia despite significant pressure from the West, demonstrating that the country will not capitulate or submit to Washington’s interests if they are contrary to New Delhi’s. This is causing frustration in the US as it naively believes it can balance both Pakistan and India, and in this way, they think that condemning India in the Western-media sphere will make it more submissive, something it has discovered will have no impact on New Delhi’s policymaking.
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