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EditorialAn opening of relations with the US

An opening of relations with the US

Approval by the US State Department for the potential sale of equipment related to
F-16 jets to Pakistan is being taken as a thaw in frosty diplomatic relations between
both states. Pakistan has contributed and sacrificed a great deal towards America’s
War on Terror, but Washington has always shown suspicion of Islamabad’s role in
combating terror due to the latter’s alleged covert ties with the Afghan Taliban in the
past. This resulted in the adoption of a tough stance by the US towards Pakistan
as the latter had to face the grudge in the form of withholding of US military aid. The
sale of F-16 aircraft also remained in limbo for years due to this mistrust. It was
widely perceived that the Indian lobby played a proactive role in sabotaging the deal
that was pivotal for upgrading the capabilities of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The
strategic alliance between India and the United States was one of the core reasons
behind the blocking of the bulk of the funds that were to be provided under the United
States Military Aid programme to Pakistan. As expected the latest deal could also
face criticism from India and to negate such perception, the US has already issued a
clarification that “the proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the
basic military balance in the region”.
Given the cold attitude of the Biden administration towards Pakistan, the current
approval for the equipment sale to sustain Pakistan’s F-16 programme is a positive
development. Still, the deal is very small in nature and does not foresee quick
augmentation of relations.
There are other reasons as well for why Pakistan failed to ingress effectively within
Washington’s power corridors. India has become a major trade powerhouse due to its
vast consumer market and being a major buyer of US weapons in South Asia.
Besides, India is taken as an ally by the US to counter China in the region that enjoys
great influence across Asia and other parts of the world. The US believes that New
Delhi can effectively keep a check on Chinese influence in the region, but this
narrative is perceived to aim at countering Pakistan as well as per some circles. India
has been importing major military hardware from the US, Israel and Europe, which
can potentially be used against Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan is relying on
China to meet its defence needs.
Questions are also being raised about Pakistan’s capability to purchase this
sustainability programme worth US$ 450 million. How could cash strapped economy
of Pakistan afford such a costly deal is a million-dollar question. However, Pakistan
needs this technology to hit back at the militant sanctuaries bordering Afghanistan as
well as to reset its estranged relations with the US. Nevertheless, Pakistan is trying its
best to maintain good relations with the US. On the other hand, the US is still
dependent on Pakistan’s political, diplomatic and military help to deal with the
situation in Afghanistan post-withdrawal and for bringing the Afghan Taliban to
the negotiating table. Amid this scenario, the sale of F-16-related equipment can be
termed as a new opening of relations between both states.

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