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As per this news article and many others, the US has recently (September 2022) approved sustaining Pakistan's F-16 fighter jets.

During the Presidency of Donald Trump, the US-Pakistan cooperation in weapons had hit a low, and India was affirmed as a strategic partner of the US. However, suddenly the US-Pakistan cooperation has started again, despite visible signs of Pakistan-Taliban cooperation reaffirming Trump's concerns.

My question is, what has changed now? Is it a punishment for India buying Russian oil to combat inflation? Is it a reward for alleged Pakistani cooperation in killing of Al Zawahiri? Is it the US's concern about not letting the Pakistani army get weaker to protect the nuclear arsenal?

I see a lot of possibilities here, but what exactly is the reason for this renewed cooperation? How will it affect India-US ties? I have also not been able to find India's official position on this deal (which will most likely be a protesting tone) and the US reply to those concerns.

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    There's no way to answer the set of Qs in the penultimate para without access to memos/conversations that are normally declassified after 25 years or so in the US. Yeah, there will be an official verbiage for the approval, but that may or may not be obfuscating as to the real reasons. The US has been seeking a MoU with Pakistan on use of airspace (towards Afghanistan) since last year, although the current access seems to be on a case-by-case basis. The new gov't in Pakistan is less anti-American in its rhetoric, so that prolly helps too. POF apparently sells ammo to Ukraine now, etc. Sep 14, 2022 at 2:16

2 Answers 2

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First, I need to correct some statements in your question.

India has always been wary of partnership with the US since the US threatened India during the 1971 war. However, the US acknowledged that it wasn't ready for a partnership with India then, but now it is "able and willing" to partner with India.

This is an absolutely incorrect and false statement.

In 1947, the USA invited India to join the USA's pole. However, India, because of Jawaharlal Nehru's personal decision, decided to keep itself non-aligned. The USA was also fully content with India's non-aligned role as India was a democracy and a virtual counterbalance to communist China.

In 1965, when Pakistan invaded India, the USA protected India by not allowing SEATO and CENTO members to get themselves involved. The USA also stopped military and monetary aid to Pakistan overnight.

In 1971, the CIA knew very well that the Soviet KGB was supplying arms and training to separatists (Awami League and Mukti Bahini). However, the CIA kept absolutely silent.

Therefore, as you can see, the USA always had an affection for India, but India, for some reason, decided to keep itself aloof.

India is also gradually moving away from Russia, especially by decreasing purchases of Russian arms and fulfilling the demand for indigenous, French, and Israeli weapons.

India is not moving away from Russia. India is trying to establish itself as an independent regional power with an independent foreign policy.

In line with that, former President Donald Trump stopped all defense and security assistance to Pakistan, calling out their lies on counter-terrorism operations (which has always been India's position).

This was not the case.

After a brief verbal spat, Pakistani PM Imran Khan visited the USA, where he was given a very warm welcome by Trump. The USA agreed to blacklist BLA as a terrorist organization, and some military supply deals were also signed. These deals were later postponed or denied because of Indian objections, Pakistan’s CPEC deals with China, and the nonprovidence of a CIA airfield in Pakistan through which the CIA wanted to keep an eye on Afghanistan.


The answer to the question:

My question is, what has changed now? Is it a punishment for India to buy Russian oil to combat inflation? Is it a reward for alleged Pakistani cooperation in killing Al Zawahiri? Is it the US's concern about not letting the Pakistan army get weaker to protect the nuclear arsenal? I see a lot of possibilities here, but what exactly is the reason for this renewed cooperation?

The change is because of a lot of things.

The Pakistan Army removed Imran Khan, allegedly at the behest of the USA, and the new government led by PM Shahbaz Sharif suspended many Chinese projects. He is also in talks with China about dismantling the CPEC authority. Therefore, the USA owes Pakistan some reward.

Pakistan has three requirements over which the USA has control: (1) clearance from the FATF gray list, (2) IMF monetary aid, and (3) spare parts and engines for F-16s.

#1 and #2 are self-explanatory.

Regarding #3, Pakistan will most likely replace all its US-made weapons with Chinese ones. However, it will take at least one more decade for China to catch up with advanced US technology. In addition to that, right now, Pakistan’s economy is not in very good shape. So, either way, keeping existing F-16s flightworthy is beneficial for Pakistan.

However, if the USA doesn’t supply F-16 spare parts and engines, Pakistan will buy more J10C from China. In the meantime, Pakistan will continue to provide China with F-16 information so that J10C can be customized according to Pakistan’s needs (which they also did in the case of JF-17s).

India's buying of Russian oil and arms could be another factor, but I don't think it is very important.

How will it affect India-US ties?

Nothing. This deal is not a ground-breaking one. It's a minor deal.


Note: I wrote this answer entirely from my memory. Please let me know if you need a reference and citation for any specific information or argument.

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    I upvoted for the "competing products are available" part of this answer, which distinguishes it from Italian's answer. It's harder to acquire customers for your weapons systems if you make a practice of refusing to assist your customer in long-term maintenance.
    – tbrookside
    Sep 14, 2022 at 13:42
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    @tbrookside that aspect is covered in the 2nd para of US State Dept reasons: life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms Sep 14, 2022 at 17:31
  • The first two of my statements, that you "corrected", might be incomplete, but are true (Let me know if you want me to elaborate on this). Anyway regarding my question - to clarify my interpretation: Donald Trump's accusation of Pakistan supporting terrorists was not official US policy; and US believes in Pakistan's efforts on countering terrorism? And the arms deal is mostly wrt the Pak-China axis and India is not a major factor in it?
    – whoisit
    Sep 15, 2022 at 1:09
  • @KB, ... might be incomplete but are true (Let me know if you want me to elaborate on this). --- No, it's not true. I have supplied enough evidence against this argument.
    – user366312
    Sep 15, 2022 at 1:11
  • @KB, Donald Trump's accusation of Pakistan supporting terrorists was not official US policy; and US believes in Pakistan's efforts on countering terrorism? And the arms deal is mostly wrt the Pak-China axis, and India is not a major factor in it? --- I don't have to add more in this regard. I believe my answer is complete and elaborate enough to account for these two additional points.
    – user366312
    Sep 15, 2022 at 1:14
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The given reasons are:

In a notification to the US Congress, the US State Department has said it has approved a possible foreign military sale of F-16 for sustainment and related equipment for an estimated cost of $ 450 million.

“Pakistan is an important counterterrorism partner, and as part of longstanding policy, the United States provides life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms” said a State Department spokesperson.

“This will sustain Islamabad’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet as well as support Americanforeign policy and national security objectives by allowing interoperability in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations,” said the Pentagon’sDefense Security Cooperation Agency in a note.

Also, according to US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA)

In a statement, DSCA said: “This proposed sale will support foreign policy and national security objectives of the US by allowing Pakistan to retain interoperability with US and partner forces in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.”

One can also add that the US probably wants to slow the drift of Pakistan to China.

It is unfortunate that the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) has lately become a victim of US-China rivalry. In a report to the US Congress in May 2020, the White House stated that the BRI would give China “undue political influence and military access”. The containment of China, being a declared objective of US foreign policy, has cast its shadow on the BRI and, by consequence, on the CPEC.

The US has long had, iffy at times, relations with Pakistan and its military. It's a calculated match, not a love match. Trump's dumping of Pakistan needs to be put into the context of his generally "unusual" foreign policy, and that especially when it comes to his public pronouncements wrt the Muslim world.

Whatever one thinks of US support for Pakistan this is more a return to the, pre-Trump, norm than a departure from long standing US foreign policy. Other administrations had to "deal with" Pakistan and did not choose to pursue a policy of disengagement, because it would have reduced their leverage.

If anything, Pakistan's relations with the Taliban are probably less of an actual problem to the US, now that its troops are safely out of Afghanistan.

India is not likely to be happy, no. But, long term, its larger strategic risks probably lie with China, not Pakistan, so it is likely to be constrained in how much it will want to push back. It certainly shares a common interest with the US in containing China and may want to diversify its own weapons acquisitions away from Russia in the future.

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  • Pakistan is an important counterterrorism partner, and as part of longstanding policy, the United States provides life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms” said a State Department spokesperson. --- Yeah, but only if India doesn't protest, no matter if India is a strategic ally of the USA or not!
    – user366312
    Sep 14, 2022 at 18:06
  • I am just quoting the communicated statement and I don't agree with your opinion of India's influence on policy. Thing is, Western perception of Pakistan is rarely very positive so there are plenty of reasons why Pakistan might get the cold shoulder at any given point in time. One of which is India, true, but Pakistan is often viewed with suspicion even without India's nudging. Remember that Western perception of India is also generally slipping under Modi. Probably India's biggest geostrategic claim to influence is playing on Western concerns re China containment. Sep 14, 2022 at 19:32
  • I don't agree with your opinion of India's influence on policy. --- With due respect, I really don't need to make you agree. 4.5 million Indians living in the USA as expats of them there are numerous involved in US decision-making process. They have also formed an organization called USINPAC. Therefore, the number of Indians working in the USA as a pressure group is astonishing. This doesn't even include the white Americans sympathetic to Indian causes and is actively promoting them, e.g., Christine Fair.
    – user366312
    Sep 15, 2022 at 0:21
  • "This is more a return to the, pre-Trump, norm" - I think this statement is the one that clarifies my doubt the most. So, the decreased co-operation with Pakistan was a Trump-only policy? If that is the case, I'm sure this (the policy change, not just the arms deal) will impact Indo-US ties significantly.
    – whoisit
    Sep 15, 2022 at 1:13

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