Friday, March 18, 2005

Fuss about F16

Few weeks back recruiters from Lockheed Martin had come to our University. As I went past displays from their various divisions, I noticed F16 fighter plane models. I could not restrain myself from thinking about the kind of ruckus this F16 creates in Indian diplomacy these days. The question of India buying weapons from US is a serious one. To begin with, India needs to diversify its sources of weapons. So its natural to look at US as an option. India has recently reiterated its longstanding objection to US selling F16's to Pakistan. But what is new is the US willingness to sell F16s to India. It seems a bit hypocritical on the part of US to offer F16s to both the countries. Or their offer of F16s to India might just be an excuse to sell it to Pakistan. But there is no doubt that US wants to increase weapons exports to India. India afterall is the world's second largest weapons importer. Most of our arms imports come from Russia which is a very dependable and long term ally. We procure fighter planes from Britain and France which sell arms to Pakistan too. But they are atleast reliable and have assured us of spare parts supply in the future. Israel has recently emerged as a big supplier of high tech weapons and we can be sure that its not going to sell any to Pakistan in the recent feature. In this context procuring arms from US is interesting. We can go ahead with arms procurement from US provided it meets two of our conditions. First it should assure us of long term supply of spare parts and wherever applicable transfer of Technology. Second it should refrain from selling certain arms to Pakistan that might seriously jeopardise our security. India should bargain heavily with US on this issue. We should question its arms supply to Pakistan not just by pointing our security concerns but also the sheer madness of selling sophisticated arms to a country which is selling Nuclear technology to every man on the street!! Besides India should pull the right economic strings to ensure US meets the two conditions mentioned above. Say for instance we can make Indian airline industry choosing between US Boeing and French Airbus subject to US policies on fighter planes supply to Pakistan. Ultimately US is a market economy and the US arms makers can put enough pressure on their government to choose India vis-a-vis Pakistan. If India can pull this off, there are three tangible benefits. 1. We will get access to good quality weapons. 2. We can deny to Pakistan the arms with which it can harm our security. 3. We can look ahead to long term Military co-operation with US.

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