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The F-16 and Afghan wars

PAF F16s air defence mission
F16s over Afghanistan

F-16 was Pakistan’s weapon of first choice when Soviets walked into Afghanistan in 1979. First tranche of 40 aeroplanes was promptly delivered. Deadly combination of F-16 and Stinger, surface to air, air defence missile broke the will of Soviet-Afghan Air Forces to carry out hot pursuit operations inside Pakistan. Now again F-16 is the best suited aircraft to hit otherwise inaccessible hideouts of Afghan militants that American and Afghan governments are gunning at. New York Time’s editorial board composed an editorial carried by the paper on May 12, under the caption “Time to Put the Squeeze on Pakistan”. Excerpts: “In coming weeks, General John Nicholson Jr., the new American commander in Afghanistan, will present his assessment of the war. It’s likely to be bleak and may question the wisdom of President Obama’s goal of cutting the American force of 10,000 troops to 5,500 by the end of the year. The truth is, regardless of troop levels, the only hope for long-term peace is negotiations with some factions of the Taliban. The key to that is Pakistan”. “Nearly 15 years after 9/11, the war in Afghanistan is raging and Pakistan deserves much of the blame. It remains a duplicitous and dangerous partner for the United States and Afghanistan, despite $33 billion in American aid and repeated attempts to reset relations on a more constructive course”. Funny argument indeed, logic stands on its head, Nicholson’s assessment is likely to question Obama’s wisdom, and therefore, “Pakistan deserves much of blame”.

Probably a lobbyist triggered editorial has been timed to deflect the pressure on American policy makers over withdrawal of subsidy on eight F-16 aircraft on behest of a cranky senator— Bob Corker. Erratic editorial goes on to suggest that this action alone is not sufficient and “President Obama declared, with undue optimism, more than 16 months ago that “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.” It will be left to his successor to figure out how and whether the Taliban can be lured into political negotiations. That will only happen if the American government finds a way to convince Pakistan to stop fueling the war”. Supply of F-16s to Pakistan even when fully paid far has been a bumpy affair. Each time Americans (read Capitol Hill) attach ifs and buts, there is public outcry in Pakistan for a fresh look on Pakistan-US relations. Eventually, every time the aeroplanes have been delivered, though with added price and strings. F-16s have never been used against India, yet Indian lobby has frequently managed to, at least, delay the deliveries. This speaks volumes about shortfall in Pakistan’s diplomatic acumen and lobbying capacity. Ironically, this time India had hired Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US Hussein Haqqani to plead the Indian case! They succeeded, we failed. While we are proverbially crying over the spilled milk, Indians are doing essential follow-up through American media. Editorial bares its teeth to justify blocking of subsidy for F16s: “Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has wisely barred the use of American aid to underwrite Pakistan’s purchase of eight F-16 jet fighters. Pakistan will still be allowed to purchase the planes, but at a cost of $700 million instead of about $380 million”. Even though mess in Afghanistan is collective failure of world, Pakistan bashing and squeezing is the easiest course that American media and a few stray congressmen like Senator Bob Corker, often like to take. The eight F-16s would eventually end up in Pakistan because the manufacturer of the aircraft fears shutting down of F-16 production line if this order does not mature. As of now, Lockheed Martin Corporation is using its own funds to pay suppliers and stave off the closure of its F-16 fighter jet production line as it waits to finalise orders from Pakistan and other countries, a company official said. “We will have a gap in the production line because of the fact that there hasn’t been another order yet,” Orlando Carvalho, who heads Lockheed’s Aeronautics division, said. Orlando said Lockheed was working with the US government, which is in talks with India about possibly building F-16s in India. Susan Ouzts, vice president of Lockheed’s F-16 programme, told reporters that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed “substantial” interest in the plane during a recent meeting with Lockheed. She said Lockheed officials would travel to India next month with a formal offer. This could be the underlying cause for the current F-16 fiasco, India might have preconditioned its negotiations with halting further supplies to Pakistan, and knowing the economic vulnerability of Pakistan, withdrawal of subsidy route may been adopted to soft kill the deal. If the talks with India do not mature during the coming visit of Modi to the US, which is most likely, then Lockheed Martin may become the biggest lobbyist for arranging requisite funds for Pakistan. Pakistan has decided to contact the Obama Administration to provide the balance amount through FMF as it does not have the money to buy F-16 jets from its resources.

Pakistan has stressed the unmatching effectiveness of F-16s in the ongoing war on terrorism because of aircraft’s ability to deliver precision guided munitions that minimizes the chances of collateral damage to non-combatant personnel and infrastructure. Pakistan has conveyed to the US that if the stalemate over funding is not resolved, it may consider buying some other fighter aircraft, from some other source to meet its needs. Saner lawmakers and State Department officials support the sale, saying Pakistan needs to modernise its air force and counter-terrorism activities. But there is growing concern in Washington about providing the same level of assistance to Pakistan unless it shows it is using the funds effectively to eliminate militants. The dilemma for Pakistan is that it cannot afford a rupture in relations with the US nor pick up a confrontation with it. In the conduct of foreign relations, engagement is the name of the game. Delivering a policy statement in the upper house of parliament on May12 in the wake of an adjournment motion on F-16 issue Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that decisions of the US Congress may have been caused by concerns raised by the US on the nuclear issue which was categorically rejected by Pakistan. “We have also rejected the frequent demand, especially from the US Congress, for the release of Shakil Afridi,” the adviser said.

Conclusion

A letter written by the Defence Minister to US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter last month, and recently statements of the defence secretary in a meeting with commander of the US Central Command General Joseph Votel indicate that Pakistan is making effort to find a way to end the impasse, the questions is are the Americans too equally keen in this regard? The ultimate question is just one: can Pakistan learn to stand on its feet with or without resolving the latest F-16 riddle with the US? Over the years, the gap between Pakistan government’s approach of readily scrumming to American pressure and public aspiration of standing up to American pressure has increased to a point that it is difficult for the government to reconcile it. Hence, at times some government functionaries also find it convenient to jockey between official stance and public mood. Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary recently said that Pakistan needs modern F-16 fighter jets for its ongoing war against terrorism but rejects the conditions the United States has attached with their sale. One wishes that our Mission in Washington had done effective lobbying well in time to avert the ignominy.

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How do we Promote Peace in India, Today?

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani We are passing through times when Hate against weaker sections of society and religious minorities is increasing by leaps and bounds. The increase in the mob lynching all over the country on the pretext of child lifting is coming on the back of mob lynching on the pretext cow-beef, public flogging-humiliation of dalits on the issue of beef and other issues related their caste humiliation. Mobs seem to be emboldened by the fact that there has been an approval of these acts from the top. Ministers like Mahesh Sharma came to the funeral of Dadri accused, now Mr. Jayant Sinha welcomed the accused of Alimuddin lynching accused when they got bail. The matters are frighteningly increasing as now the horrid incidents of rape are being given a communal twist, fake news is being employed with impunity on one side and rape accused are getting social support on the other. It’s a matter of shame that in case of Kathua the then Ministers from BJP Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, attended the event organized by Hindu Ekta Manch, which was protesting against the arrests in the case. Now in case of Mandsaur rape, the incident is being given false twist to demonize a community. The accused belonged to Muslim community. Muslim groups took out a procession demanding severe punishment to the accused. Jyotiradiya Scindiya of Congress joined a candle light procession to demand death penalty to the accused. Social media was used to spread the hateful message as if he was demanding the release of the accused. The pictures of procession were photo shopped to present Muslims in bad light. A message was circulated, which said that members of the Muslim community rallied in Mandsaur demanding that the perpetrator of the crime be released because the Quran sanctions rape of non-Muslim women. The text of the placards in the Mandsaur procession was “We won’t tolerate attacks on daughters, stop this brutality”. A tweet was circulated “NCRB report: India is most dangerous for women reason: In India, 95% of the rape cases have a Muslim perpetrator. Of the total 84734 rape cases, 81000 rapes had a Muslim rapist and 96% of the victims are non-Muslims and with an increase in theirpopulation, number of rapes will also increase.” Nothing can be farther from truth. NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not record the religion in cases of rape. This tweet and the one about Jyotiraditya Scindia was exposed by AltNews, the portal going to the roots of such fake news and is doing a great service to society by giving the truth and exposing the news which is deliberately trying to demonize the religious minority. One recalls that in case of Muzzafarnagar; the violence was incited by circulating a photo of two young men being beaten by a Muslim looking crowd. It was presented that Hindu youth are being beaten. As such that picture was from Pakistan, the crowd beating two thieves. Recently in Kairana the Mahagathbandhan candidate Tabassum Hasan won the election against the BJP candidate. After winning she stated “This is the victory of truth and ‘Mahagatbandhan’ (coalition) and defeat of the BJP in the state and Centre. Everyone has come out and supported us. I thank them.” On social media and on TV debates what was presented was that she said “This is the victory of Allah and defeat of Ram”. This quote was posted on a number of pro-BJP pages on Facebook among which Yogi Adityanath-True Indian posted it on 1 June, and was shared massively. One recalls that in recent times BJP has deliberately muddied the waters of social media by employing thousands of trolls, as Swati Chaturvedi’s “I am a Troll”, tells us. As such the hate propaganda began with demonization of Muslim kings for breaking Hindu temples in medieval period, for spreading Islam, for having large families, indulging in polygamy, being terrorists etc. Now it has taken a dangerous turn with people trained in communal ideology and in the use of social media twisting the facts blatantly. There are reports that in the forthcoming elections BJP is planning to train lakhs of volunteers in the use of social media for electoral gains. The rising hatred is becoming like a monster, propelling itself beyond control. Can we just accuse the social media for intensifying this hate? Some control and restraint is needed, some fact check is necessary for this highly impactful media. What is also needed is that mechanisms like AltNews are made more popular to counter these falsehoods. It is heartening to note that Twitter has decided to suspend seven Crore fake accounts. We also need to ensure that the misconceptions and Hate which is ruling our society, streets need to be countered by message of love. What we need is that truth is propagated and message of peace is made more effective. We have activists like Faisal Khan, who through his Khudai Khidmatagar takes out peace marches. Harsh Mander’s Paigam-E-Mohabbat (Message of peace) has been doing yeomen service by meeting the families of victims of lynching and creating an atmosphere of amity. Mahant from Ayodhya Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastri, through his less advertised peace marches is trying to reach sections of society with a message of tolerance and peace. Such efforts need to be upheld and broadened. These are just few examples of the initiatives in this direction, there are many more which need to be projected to promote and preserve amity in India. Countering Hate and promoting amity became the central message of father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who struggled to promote peace, in the highest traditions of his Hinduism. As the fake news is assuming frightening proportions and is doing serious harm to the concept of fraternity inherent in Indian nationalism, we need to retune ourselves to the core value of amity, which was the foundation of freedom movement and is very much the part of our Constitution.

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