Weapon Sales Causes Tensions
This past month the United States approved the ‘unlimited’ selling of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, disregarding the complaints of India. Also during this past month the United States chastised the European Union for planning the reopening of the arms trade with China.
The hypocrisy of the United States in its arms trade is outstanding; it is detrimental for global security (the United States’ security in particular) if China, a communist-based dictatorship, receives weapons from the Europeans but the United States believes it is quite all right for the theocratic dictatorship that is Pakistan to buy weapons that could endanger India and the security in Southeast Asia.
The United States’ alienation of the relatively stable Indian ally, the largest democracy in the world, for a fair-weather friend such as Pakistan doesn’t logically make sense.
Pakistan aided us after Sept. 11 with the use of its airbases to strike Afghanistan after the United States paid to use them; it wasn’t a gift, but a trade agreement in which both parties gained. Pakistan is a pragmatic ally at best. This greater logic of the arms trade is based on financial gain.
The selling of $1.2 billion in F-16 fighters (it costs the United States about $18.8 million to buy the jets) and spy aircrafts that the United States proposed in November does sound fiscally logical. The war on terror has stretched the United States’ financial resources tight and, as a consequence, we have to sell weapons to those who are possibly a threat to global security and the three wars between India and Pakistan (typically over the Kashmir territory) definitely suggests that Pakistan has the potential to threaten India.
The United States offered to sell India weapons, as well, such as the F-16 technology and F-18, fighters but India hasn’t acted yet. As the Pakistani Ambassador Jehangir Karamat told the United Press International in Washington, ‘The Indians already have Russian and East-European equipment, such as MiG-21 and Su-30 aircraft that they received from Russia along with transfer of technology. Indians also have French aircraft. They have relations with Israel, as well, and are buying unmanned aircraft and surveillance equipment from them.’
The Pakistanis depend largely on United States military export goods and purchased F-16s in the 1980’s. The United States and Pakistan were to trade even more F-16s in the 1990s but the U.S. military decided to punish the country for its nuclear ambition by sanctioning all spare parts and military goods, and this led to a severe weakening of the Pakistani air force.
The sanctions were pulled even tighter in 1998 during Pakistan’s involvement in nuclear testing. After Sept. 11, the sanctions were raised to reward Pakistan and its more active roll against terrorism.
The United States’ actions can be interpreted as a catalyst for an arms race between Pakistan and India but Karamat argued that Pakistan simply needs to be able to defend itself and that Pakistan’s primary goal is not to deter war but to be prepared if war does occur. He explained that India has a larger and more sophisticated military and is not trying to compete.
However nice this sounds, I don’t believe it will be viewed that way by India. It is not more sophisticated; according to Karamat and the New York Times, India has purchased most of its military goods from the Eastern Bloc and France, which on the whole are inferior to American military goods.
How should India respond to its next-door neighbor bringing increasingly better and more military goods into the neighborhood?
It will most likely try to match and possibly to exceed Pakistan to maintain the balance of power, no matter how skewed it may be in India’s favor. India has the power of 1.3 billion people but Pakistan wants the power of technology.
The proper United States foreign relations should involve no arms deals to either country so as to maintain the balance of power as it is.
There should be no trading of nuclear-capable F-16s to Pakistan and patting India on the back and wishing them good luck with their burned-out and archaic air force of French and Russian rejects.
The United States was outraged by the Europeans selling weapons to the Chinese, so in return it decided to outrage the Indians with the same arms deal agenda: make money.
In summary, don’t aggravate the balance of power by trading arms that can most definitely change the dynamics of a battle by permitting easier nuclear-weapon usage and inciting an arms race between two rival countries and claiming you are aiding Southeast Asia’s stability and security.
Eric Schafer is a first-year political science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org