Who said hyphenation is dead?
So it finally happened. President George W Bush has announced the sale of F-16s to General Musharraf’s Pakistan. If there was one act, short of forcing India to make territorial concessions in Kashmir, that could strengthen Musharraf’s hand, this is surely it.
And lest India get too worked up over this largesse to its threatening neighbour, the United States has a lot more in store for it — not only alphanumerical superiority in the form of F-18s but also a qualitative upgrade in the bilateral strategic relationship, giving it a ‘much more global character’.
Military co-operation in general, and defence procurement in particular are important â€” but not the end-all of a bilateral relationship between India and the United States.[The Acorn]
That India and the United States are talking about a bilateral relationship that is global in character is good news — but the acid test of this will come later this year, when the United States will be forced to put its vote where its mouth is. It would be rather vacous to talk of an ‘upgrade’ in relationship if the United States does not support India’s candidature for a permanent ‘Model A‘ seat on the UN Security Council.
The United States may have convinced itself that it has managed to satisfy both sides, but it has weakened the hand of those in India who argue for a strong pro-American foreign policy stance.
While the United States has sought to balance the geopolitical impact of the deal by applying a soothing balm on India, the decision to sell F-16s to Pakistan is not a good idea at all, as Kaushik Kapisthalam explains. Even with spin-doctors working in the overdrive mode, it will require a leap of faith to believe that selling advanced arms to dangerous dictatorships with unsatiated territorial ambitions is somehow consistent with spreading liberty and freedom in the world. Instead of the Pakistani people, it is American fighter-aircraft that have bolstered Musharraf’s position.
Even if Musharraf’s announcement that he will now allow greater international inspection of Khan’s centrifuges does not in any way imply that Pakistan has stopped procuring nuclear materials, even from North Korea. The half-lives of nuclear materials and their delivery mechanisms are much longer that the remaining lifetime of General Musharraf. That only means that instead of nipping the global threat from Pakistani nuclear weapons in the bud, it has only been postponed for the future.
Jeb, if not George himself, will have to contend with the fallout (sad pun unintended) of the way Gen Musharraf was handled since 9/11. Indian diplomats should closely study the six-way talks over North Korea that are currently in progress — they may be sitting in on a similar table in a few years from now.
Tailpiece: How can the Indian prime minister’s concerns over the sale be taken seriously when he plans invite Musharraf and watch cricket together?
Related Post: Those infernal F-16s