The absurdity of giving Predator drones to Pakistan

It’s the inclination, stupid!

It is one thing for President Asif Ali Zardari to say it. It is entirely another thing to take him seriously. We are talking about Mr Zardari’s Archimedes-like statement: “Give us the drones and we will take out the militants ourselves.” Some visiting US officials and journalists have found this demand promising.

It is also extremely absurd.

The United States is using unmanned aerial vehicles to attack specific al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders because it cannot use inexpensive, conventional methods like getting a bunch of troops to go there and arrest or kill the targeted individuals. The United States cannot do it because they are in Pakistani territory, and sending troops without an agreement with the Pakistani government amounts to an invasion. An invasion is not only illegal under international law, but also causes the Pakistani government and the people to get very worked up. The use of Predator & Reaper drones, is somehow considered to be less of a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. (A aero-geopolitical version of the vexed legal question: when is rape a rape?)

The Pakistani government, by definition, does not violate Pakistani sovereignty when it storms a building in its own territory. It also does not, generally, violate international law. It might get some Pakistani people worked up, but no more than if it were to use drones for the purpose. So if Mr Zardari really wants to take out the militants, then there’s nothing—save the Pakistani military establishment—really stopping him. But if the military establishment is stopping him from getting troops to storm Taliban leaders, it is also going to stop him from using drones for the purpose. The problem then, is not the non-availability of drones, but the unwillingness of the Pakistani military establishment. Mr Zardari & his civilian friends can’t fly those drones, can they?

Now unless the idea is to paint the American drones in Pakistani colours while flying them out of Pakistani air bases, but controlling them remotely from bases in the US, Mr Zardari’s idea doesn’t make much sense.

9 thoughts on “The absurdity of giving Predator drones to Pakistan”

  1. Yes US go ahead and give a few drones to Pak.. The next thing you know they will be attacking India with it! The state is built on anti-India sentiments 🙁

  2. Well said.

    But think of what the Pk military will do once they get them? What, really will they do with it? Miss their targets every time? Warn their valuable targets before the drones take off? Or fly it in the capital? Or Take out high value targets in India? Or fly them on the border and allow infiltration?

  3. Pak will likely pass on the Drone technology to the PRC to reverse engineer and study in detail.

    Pretty much the same thing they did in ’98 with the remains of the few unexploded Tomahawks that landed in A’stan after Clinton’s failed attempt on Osama’s camp.

    Good money both ways and who knows, maybe their taller than oceans fliends, the chinese will actually gift them some reverse engineered drones to paint islamic colors on and claim indigenous development only – pretty much what they did with all their ghauris and shaheens.

    BTW, Nitin, Pak’s repeated assaults, kidnap and murder of Balochi leaders also violates no international law then, I surmise? With what face can the world raise voices on Darfur then?

  4. The absurdity of the situation is resolved if you consider that the military-industrial complex of the US is involved in a simple dollar auction.

    Briefly, the US gives Pakistan drones under some pretext. Since Pakistan is broke, it cannot pay for them. So the US gives military assistance to Pakistan to buy the drones with. Which basically means that the US pays its weapons manufacturers for supplying the Pakistanis. That’s the first-order effect of military aid to Pakistan: US weapons manufacturers continue to be in business.

    The second-order effect follows predictably. India now has to match Pakistan’s weapons. India pays the US to buy drones. This means more business for US weapons manufacturers.

    The war on terror has to continue because that’s what allows the machinery of the military-industrial complex humming away. The US is a military superpower and any day of the week it actually wants to, it can totally wipe off global Islamic terrorism. That it chooses not to do so is simple: its weapons industry will hurt like hell. Sure the US exports a lot of stuff other than weapons. But the politicians who make the policies are in the pockets of the weapons manufacturers.

  5. The reason why the Pakistani’s are desperate for the drones is-
    “The Indian ministry of defence has confirmed that it has signed a contract with M/s Rafael, Israel for the supply of the SPYDER (Surface-to-air Python and Derby) low level quick reaction missile system (LLQRM) for the Indian Air Force.”
    “SPYDER is a low-level, quick-reaction, surface-to-air missile (LLQRM) system capable of engaging aircraft, helicopters, unmanned air vehicles, drones and precision-guided munitions. The system provides air defence for fixed assets and for point and area defence for mobile forces in combat areas.”
    The SPYDER-SR (short range) system has 360° engagement capability and the missiles can be launched from the full-readiness state in less than five seconds post target confirmation. The kill range is specified as being less than 1km to more than 15km. The altitudes range from a minimum of 20m to a maximum of 9,000m. The system is capable of multi-target simultaneous engagement and also single, multiple and ripple firing, by day and night and in all weathers.”

    http://www.india-defence.com/reports/4106

  6. hmmm, my earlier comment got lost. These drones are useless with the C&C systems that are needed to run them effectively. given how sensitive the latter are and that they are still being developed as cutting edge tech; there is 0% chance that even if the drones are given these systems will be handed over. The US has a record of selling the hardware without the appropriate software to allies it can’t fully trust; so the whole thing is a non-issue imo; there is little chance of Pak getting their hands on any drones.

  7. “Give us the drones” is a classical diversionary argument..like the “core issue of Kashmir”. On the surface all Paki arguments looks credible..but they are superfluous and implausible. Pak has sufficient air assets and precision guided weapons and UAVs(to recce them) to take them out. Predator is not a high-tech technology thing..its very cheap weapon platform and most of the countries have similar technology..The edge in American and Israeli weapons are stealth,composites and datalinks..These three are not a premuim when u r operating in ur own airspace..American journos are morons..they were played to the hilt by Musharaf..and here they go again..

  8. @ Atanu

    The US is a military superpower and any day of the week it actually wants to, it can totally wipe off global Islamic terrorism

    Not sure how military power alone can defeat Islamic terrorism. There are other dimensions to this problem, imo.

    @ Conrad

    Any drone requires a C&C system to function; and any C&C has a significant software component. Therefore, you cannot sell drone “hardware” without necessary software 🙂

    Of course, the software’s sophistication determines how autonomous and remotely-controlled a drone can be. Neither Pakistan (nor India for that matter) currently have the kind of network-centric military that the US has. In fact, this network is so advanced that most drones today are controlled via satellite from the US itself.

    So unless the US wants to “lease out” its network, it would sell Pakistan drones that are less advanced that the US uses today. Since India does not have such an advanced military network, a fair question to ask is how sophisticated are the Indian drones (mostly acquired from Israel) as compared to the ones that would be offered to Pakistan (should the deal materialize).

    As Sud rightly points out, we should also not discount the China angle.

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