An IDC Analysis

New Delhi, 24 November 2004

India is upset at USA's release of a $1 billion weapon package to Pakistan. We had often raised a moot question –- does Pakistan as a nation not need to worry when India arms itself to the teeth with SU 30MKIs, Mirages, submarines and missiles? Unllike India it does not profess non alignment from the roof tops and so its friends USA, China and Saudi Arabia worry for Pakistan and help it out. They all know Pakistan is "geographically positioned to be an ENERGY HUB for the region” and India must admit it too.

The Chinese will use Gwadar in the future when pipelines are set up from Iran where they have invested. US–Pakistan relations are bound to be kept up, have become closer post 9/11 and then cleverly poised when Pakistan was conferred the status of a major non-NATO ally. This will enable the US to arm Pakistan in exchange for bases. This has happened and Indian tempers are frayed.

Geographically Pakistan sits astride the land and sea oil routes of the Middle East and Central Asia. USA has therefore a need to be close and support democracy in Pakistan. If Musharraf goes and a Mullah comes to power, then Pakistan may become another Iran. Hence the long term question that needs answering is whether India and USA have any common interests, besides trade and stability in the area. The short answer is India and USA have mutual need to trade and dialogue, but have little in common as far as strategic interests go. In fact our interests will clash more as we develop our economy, pirate their software and take away their jobs.

India is already a democracy so USA is pleased, but it feels human rights are violated in Kashmir. USA is keen Pakistan gets some concessions in the Kashmir valley but India will never part with an inch of its soil or EEZ, and has fenced the IBL and the LOC unilaterally. By end 2004 the demarcation will be complete as Army Engineers say Mission Impossible DEEWAR (Wall) is accomplished.

USA wishes to retain its base in Deigo Garcia and have a greater presence in the Indian Ocean for its missile defence platforms and to enforce non proliferation. This does not suit India, but USA has offered India cooperation and we are hesitant. Indian Navy's Maritime Doctrine says it can safeguard the Indian Ocean, and silently the Indian Navy is being beefed up for this, though our defence doctrine is still to evolve so that the Navy's share of the budget rises over the present 18%. CNS is crying hoarse for more submarines and ships, and these are being delayed.

In this context China and Japan too feel they must have a say in the stability of the region to ensure safety of the oil routes in the Indian Ocean, as it is their energy lifeline that can be threatened. Japan is hosting an Indian Navy and MEA retired official s' delegation in Tokyo as military contact is not permitted. India has signed a Defence Cooperation agreement with Iran and is set to sign one with Sri Lanka again with IOC oil outlets and the Trincomallee tank farm in mind.

A look at the map depicts that Iran and Pakistan control the mouth of the Hormuz Straits and can choke the sea lanes of oil quite easily. Yet for the time being USA treats Iran as an evil axis enemy, and is wary of Indian overtures to that country, which are many. India knows it will have to import much needed gas from Iran and can never annoy Iran. 

Hence now that Pak PM Shaukat Aziz is here Mani Shankar Iyer is meeting him to discuss the Gas and Oil pipeline from Iran, which will have to pass 700km through Pakistan and they get to earn route revenue. It’s a win-win situation for all and USA's dole in the article below by an Indian should be seen in that light. We must see that national and economic interests guide our hearts and minds.

Outside View –– U.S. Amnesia On Pakistan

By Kaushik Kapisthalam

The Washington Times

Atlanta, GA, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Even as Pakistan's leadership was expressing its unrestrained glee with President George W. Bush's thumping re-election, the new Bush administration wasted no time in making its first big move to reward Pakistan with advanced weaponry.

On Nov. 16, the Defense Security and Cooperation Agency sent notifications to Congress of a $1.3 billion arms package for Pakistan, a major non-NATO ally of America. The deal includes eight P-3C Orion naval reconnaissance planes possibly with anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles, 2,000 TOW-2A heavy anti-armor guided missiles and the deadly PHALANX Close-In Weapon Systems for ships. Ostensibly, these sales are to enable Pakistan to fight the war on terror. What's even better for Pakistan is that the money for this sale is likely to come from the $1.5 billion over five years that the U.S has promised Pakistan in military aid, making it a veritable freebie.

Not to forget that what is still on the table is the deal for the F-16 fighter jets that Pakistan has been dying to get. Even though there is no official word on the F-16s, there have been many reports that the deal is all but done and the Bush administration is waiting for an opportune time to announce it, perhaps when Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf next visits Washington.

Now, if one takes this new Orion/TOW/Phalanx giveaway deal at face value, it seems like a reasonable proposition. After all, if the United States expects Pakistan to fight terrorists, it behoves it to support its ally as much as possible, right? Not quite.

The problem is that these systems are unlikely to be used in Pakistan's much-vaunted operations in the tribal areas, which a senior U.S official recently described to Time magazine as "7,000 to 10,000 Pakistani troops courageously battling 200 al-Qaida guys to a standstill."

The Pakistan army, for instance, could theoretically use the TOW missile against militant hideouts in the tribal areas. But one needs to look at the specific version that Pakistan is seeking to see the fallacy of this claim.

The DSCA statement clearly states that the TOW variant that Pakistan wants is the "TOW-2A Anti-Armor Guided Missile." This missile's unique feature is the "tandem" warhead that is specifically designed to be used against tanks with Explosive Reactive Armor. It is hard to imagine the tribal militants in possession of ERA armored vehicles, but everyone knows who has such systems in Pakistan's neighborhood.

On the other side of Pakistan, the Indian army is busy inducting the Russian made T-90S tanks with the Kontakt-5 ERA, just the type of armor the TOW-2A is designed to penetrate. It is unlikely to see Pakistan wasting its supply of TOW-2As when its huge supply of cheap Chinese anti-tank missiles could do the trick against the mud structures of the tribal militants. As they say, it doesn't make sense to use a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

Similarly, the P-3C planes have only one likely purpose -- to fight against India's large fleet of submarines and battleships. Indeed there is very little that the Pakistan Navy could do in terms of tracking terrorist ships that the U.S. and NATO fleets in and around Pakistan cannot do. Besides, is the United States ever going to rely on the Pakistanis to track their coastline, when that area holds the biggest risk of a nuclear-weapon-laden container being sent to American ports? Even the DSCA's press release on the P-3C sale says that the P-3C "will enhance the capabilities of the Pakistani Navy and support its regional influence."

Similarly, the PHALANX system is meant to defend ships against fast incoming missiles and aircrafts, which terrorists are unlikely to have. Pakistan is likely to employ them on ships conducting operations against India.

And we are not even talking about the F-16s. If press reports from Washington are to be believed, Pakistan is likely to get 18 to 20 F-16 C/D variants, possibly with AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and precision-guided bombs. It is hard to see how AMRAAM long range air-to-air missiles help fight terrorists unless they are intended to bring down Osama Bin Laden's flying carpet.

All this makes one wonder if the United States has learned anything from history.

In the 1980s, Pakistan was a frontline ally of the U.S in the effort to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. During that time, supporters of Pakistan in Capitol Hill and the Pentagon argued for giving that nation advanced arms, including the F-16 fighters as well as billions in military aid. The F-16s were justified with an argument that a conventionally strong Pakistan is unlikely to develop nuclear weapons.

As it turned out later, Pakistan actually accelerated its nuclear program during the same period with the American taxpayer funding its conventional defenses to the tune of $5 billion, thereby freeing up funds for its nuclear program. Former Senate official Leonard Weiss revealed in 2002 that Pakistan had in fact diverted two-thirds of the weaponry acquired from the United States ostensibly to protect against the Soviet threat to the Indian border.

Washington Post Managing Editor Steve Coll wrote in his recent book "Ghost Wars" that Pakistan's intelligence services transferred weapons obtained from the CIA, such as advanced sniper rifles, to the Islamist groups fighting against Indian troops in Kashmir. The Pakistan army even used the famous Stinger missiles in its 1999 aggression into the Indian-held Kargil heights in Kashmir.

Apologists for Pakistan in Washington point out that given the big imbalance between India and Pakistan militarily, the United States must step in to address the disparity for the sake of "stability." One could write a book on the hollowness of this argument, but two big holes in this hypothesis stand out.

Firstly, Pakistan is already close to max-out levels in its defense spending. Its current defense budget for 2004-2005 is officially 194 billion rupees. But that doesn't include grants, pensions and other expenses, which increase the actual number to 300 billion rupees or approximately $5 billion. If one adds to that the $600 million that Pakistan is getting in terms of free weaponry from the United States, it comes to $3.6 billion or a whopping 8 percent of its 2003 gross domestic product. India, on the other hand, spends between 2 percent and 3 percent of its GDP for defense.

The fact is that there is never going to be an equality between Pakistan and India in conventional arms, just like India can never equal China's numbers and China in turn can never match up to America's. Besides, aren't Pakistan's nuclear weapons supposed to obviate the need for Pakistan to match India weapon for weapon?

The other argument is the one that is usually spouted by retired Pakistani military officials who frequent American think tanks. For instance, retired Pakistan Army Brig. Feroz Hassan Khan is a visiting professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, Calif. Khan says that the United States needs to "realize" that India is Pakistan's main threat and must seek to alleviate this specific concern of Pakistan.

In fact, this argument is also without merit. The reality is that in terms of South Asian stability, India is a status quo power, which seeks to wait out issues, much like China does with respect to Taiwan.

But what the Pakistani military establishment clearly wants is a license to try to change the status quo through the use of sub-state actors, such as the jihadi groups its uses in Kashmir supplemented by a U.S.-provided safety net when its ill thought-out military adventures backfire, like they usually do.

Now it is quite true that the military dominated Pakistani establishment has always viewed India as an aggressor and a mortal threat. But that does not mean that the world should buy into this theory. In fact, most experts in Washington and elsewhere point out that Pakistan's main threat is an internal one from homegrown Islamist groups and the radicalization of the Pakistani society in general and the army in particular. In fact, the unsaid fear factor is America's post 9/11 policy towards Pakistan has been the prospect of a radical Islamist regime taking control of Pakistan's already leaky nuclear weapons complex.

It is therefore in the American interest to focus aid to Pakistan toward efforts to thwart the internal dangers, rather than buttressing the Pakistani establishment's paranoia about the Indian "threat." Former State Department official and South Asia expert Teresita Schaffer pointed out in her July 14, 2004 testimony to the Senate that Pakistan has not abandoned its proclivity towards starting reckless military adventures and continues to support Islamist militants in Kashmir who could provoke a war with India with one big attack. She recommended against the sale of major weapons systems to Pakistan in that context.

The Musharraf regime is already in a state of euphoria over the Bush re-election. They see Bush's win as something that would guarantee the continuation of benefits that Pakistan enjoyed over the last four years -- lavish economic support, daily diplomatic encomiums, little pressure for democratic reforms, coddling of Pakistani jihadi groups and a free pass on the A.Q. Khan deal and more cover up of Pakistani state involvement in nuclear proliferation.

In this milieu, it is hard to see the latest American military largesse to Pakistan as having anything but a negative effect on the region's stability. This could only serve to embolden the hard-line elements in Pakistan's military to get aggressive with India again. If the Kashmir talks soon hit a dead end with Pakistan realizing that it cannot gain any territory from India on the negotiating table, we may possibly see another "tactically brilliant" but strategically harebrained military adventure by Pakistan within the next four-years.

Like Yogi Berra once said -- "It's déjà vu all over again"

Kaushik Kapisthalam is a freelance commentator on topics relating to South Asia. He can be reached at

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