Payoffs post-Trump-Imran meeting

(PAF’s 2-seater F-16D)

The dust has not quite settled on the little matter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting Donald Trump, per Trump, to mediate on the Kashmir dispute. Because, in the face of foreign minister K Jaishankar’s “categorical denial” in Parliament regarding any such request, the US President’s Special Assistant Larry Kudlow asserted before TV cameras that “the President does not make up things”. [ ]

So, no one’s any nearer to knowing what actually transpired in Osaka and what it is that Modi said to the US President, 20 days later, to prompt Trump’s offering himself to Imran and the world as potential arbitrator. And, oh, yes, all the usual retired diplomats — foreign secretaries and the like, and the entire lot of lesser commentators, who until now vociferously backed Modi’s policy of cultivating America as a central pillar of Indian foreign policy, suddenly discovered the US cannot be trusted!

Imran returned home a hero having consolidated Pakistan’s status — surprise! surprise! — as the indispensable front line state the US desperately needs to zero out its military presence in Afghanistan at any and all cost, along with a goodies bag for the Pakistan armed services, which indubitably is the first tranche of upfront payoffs — a $125 million package to retrofit 12 PAF F-16Cs and six two-seater trainer version F-16Ds with the technologically updated Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 jet engine with 79 kiloNewton dry thrust and 129.7 kN with afterburner. Most likely, senior PAF officers accompanying the COAS General Qamar Bajwa, who was part of Imran’s delegation, wangled the EEP (Engine Enhancement Program) version.

The P&W website reveals the EEP as incorporating advances in such areas as turbine materials, cooling management techniques, compressor aerodynamics, and electronic controls, from the F-22 Raptor’s turbofan engine and from the propulsion system in the latest American combat aircraft F-35 jet power plant, thereby increasing the “Depot maintenance interval” of the warplane from 4,300 to 6,000 hours or, to put it differently, from 7 to 10 years, while easing upkeep procedures and reducing the lifetime costs by almost a third. In other words, PAF is well on its way to at once refurbishing its entire F-16 fleet, lengthening its life, and making it more affordable.

Again by design and, perhaps, to suppress any hard reaction from Delhi, the US insisted on placing 60 Lockheed representatives in Pakistan (whether on PAF air bases, is not clear) constituting a Technical Security Team (TST) to monitor the end-use of these revamped F-16s. Except, a Pentagon official told Indian news agency, PTI, that the Americans would be there to also, as he put it, protect the engine technology, presumably from being onpassed to China — one of the usual channels Beijing has used over the years to access US technologies. Pakistan, for instance, shipped an F-16 for Chinese engineers to study and reverse engineer its many technologies when it was first inducted into PAF in 1982 and, likewise, moved the high-performance, silenced, rotor system in the US helicopter that crashed during the 2011 American Operation Neptune Spear to take out Osama bin Laden, to China for a decent amount of time before returning the damaged ‘copter to America.

The fact is even with Americans exercising physical oversight of the revamped F-16s, there’s no way they can prevent these aircraft from being flown to satellite air fields ostensibly on routine exercise either for the Chinese aviation designers and engineers to closely inspect them there, or to embark them on offensive sorties (assuming the TST is really there to deter such uses, which is doubtful).

Curiously, at the same time as the F-16 deal was announced in Washington a couple of days after Imran’s departure, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency issued a statement saying that India had asked to buy spare parts and test equipment for IAF’s C-17 transport planes, and that it “is seeking personnel training, among other things, “for an estimated cost of $670 million.” India, it added, “needs this follow-on support to maintain its operational readiness and ability to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) assistance in the region…[and] will have no difficulty absorbing this support into its armed forces.” Both the press releases announcing the F-16 upgrade and the the Indian buy of C-17 support, iterated that these sales “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.” 

And, outside of hightailing it out of Afghanistan, that’s the entire US strategic game plan and objective isn’t it — to maintain by whatever means and at all cost “the basic military balance” in the subcontinent? It is also apparently China’s. Because, such military balance encourages Islamabad to continue engaging in cross-border terrorism, keeps India distracted with the Pakistan bogey and unprepared and incapable of diverting the limited resources to tackle the more substantive China threat, even as Washington and Beijing are free to carry on with their big power struggle to gain ascendancy in the Indo-Pacific while exploiting, in separate and similar ways, the squabbling India and Pakistan for their own purposes.

The pity is the Modi government (and the section of the Pak-phobic Indian media) are so blinded by their hate as to miss seeing the larger Sino-US strategic scheme in play to keep India down.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, arms exports, asia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Decision-making, domestic politics, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, guerilla warfare, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian ecobomic situation, MEA/foreign policy, Military Acquisitions, Military/military advice, Pakistan, Pakistan military, SAARC, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, Terrorism, United States, US., Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Payoffs post-Trump-Imran meeting

  1. Rupam says:

    Wonder what prevents the Indian govt. to help set up 10 private companies (Give them free land or lease it out, free electricity etc.) that will reverse engineer every bit of Weapons system imported and start a whole indigenous design system.
    While neither are terrorists belligerence in Kashmir stopping nor is China stopping while sneaking in slowly and steadily a tight rope around India to clamp it down.
    While Japan and Vietnam both need frontline defense aircrafts for their needs and Tejas will perfectly fit the bill. Just give L&T, Mahindra etc. full production rights with a good deal of share of profit so that HAL, ADA etc. earn for their own R&D into Mk. 2 and AMCA. Rather I would say Mk. 2 and Naval Tejas should be fully given to the domestic private sector with share of profit like getting 10% of the earnings for the tech transfer and let them make modifications according to vendor needs and come up with more versions. On the other hand, fast track the HAL, ADA etc. on AMCA and also the GTRE with the in house engine that will form foundation for further designs. Wonder what prevents the govt. from doing that, is they have nothing in their heads, or corruption, or powerful foreign arms company lobby, or bureaucrats being dicks etc. or combination of all.

    • Yea, been suggesting for many years now that GOI instruct DRDO to pass on source codes to L&T, Mahindra Aerospace, et al to set up competing Tejas production lines in the pvt sector. But the statist Modi sarkar won’t listen.

      • Rupam says:

        I wish you were the DM or NSA

      • ABC says:

        IAF is killing mk1a by delaying RFP … Mk2 may not get out of drawing board … Pvt sector involvement regarding Tejas seems a distant dream.. I am with the idea of it being the backbone of IAF .

  2. Janjua says:

    The picture in the begining is f16 b not f16 d as it doesnt have spine in the back…

  3. The PAF has only F-16 cs/Ds. And this pic shows the aircraft with Pak flag on its tail.

    • Janjua says:

      PAF acquired f16 A/b in 80’s and 90’s …. there serial number start either with 8 or 9…
      These were upgraded by TAI to AM/BM level…
      Paf then acquired 18 F16 C/D block 52 in late 2000’s….
      F16 D dual seater has spine in the back and the one in the picture is F16 B and has serial number starting in 92 meaning acquired in 1992.

      If u like i can share links from as well

  4. devraj says:

    Sir Pak has small fleet of f16 compare to 250 indian su30s which are generation ahed of f16.match is 50 to 60 f16 vs 250 su 30 .first round of war all f16 be cleared.why we get tense on these f16

    • Rupam says:

      It is not to get tense with F-16 but that fact that for all the brohaha over India-US friendship and defense partnership, the fact is that it is not in US interests to see India rise and it will always support Pak as it is helping it get out of Afghanistan. It is not in any bigger power’s interest to see India rise, be it Russia, China or US. Which is why we see this game in Foreign policy and defense to keep India forever occupied with Pak, while the other secure their position in the continent and other areas.

      The only countries that would probably be supporting India’s rise are those that have historically always been mostly against these powers. Them being Vietnam, Japan, Philippines etc.

  5. Inconsequential & insignificant India.
    While it is another thing that India is a superpower in waiting as per both Modi & Amit Shah.

  6. AD says:

    Read the parent article (link near top) and comments to better understand how things are really done in the defense sector of USA..

    One of better comments is as follows: “The elevators aren’t the only issue plaguing the ship, which has had problems with two other core systems — the electromagnetic system to launch planes and the arresting gear to catch them when they land.” So let’s see, the only problem with this aircraft carrier is that it has trouble with airplanes taking off. And landing. And carrying, you know, bombs.”

  7. India is the laughing stock of the world when they cant make an armored car for their own PM or president, Imagine an itsy bitsy North Korea has armored train for its boss:

  8. India cant make reclining seats for its so called Vande Bharat fastest train?

  9. Can you imagine that the Ugandian and Zimbabwe passport is more powerful than India’s?

  10. While India is sitting on 4th gen:

  11. Sandeep says:

    Hi Bharat,

    On the day Modi govt 2.0 won, i.e. 23rd May 2019, India also voted in favor of UNGA resolution demanding UK gives up Chagos. Given that Diego Garcia is the jewel of American power projection in the Indian Ocean, its a significant ask by India given the looming China threat. Yet, I don’t see any article / take on the same, on the geopolitical implications of the same and what Modi 2.0 might be thinking here. Care to elaborate?

    • The reason I did not think this development worthy of comment is that it is more pro forma than reflecting serious intent to challenge the US presence in IOR ex-Diego Garcia. And in any case what chance that Washington will heed anything Delhi says on this matter?

  12. Rupam says:

    Bharat Karnad ji do you think the recent news of Taiwan desperate need for fighter jets and subsequent delay of US sale of 66 F-16V jets to it presents another unique opportunity to not only give production line to Domestic private sector for sale of lets say 150 Tejas to Taiwan but also initiate a covert training of Taiwanese Air Force Pilots here in India. Not only that also your suggestion of let Domestic private sector to partner with Japanese to produce Shinmaywa US-2 which will probably be needed in those area as well.

    This will also put a major dent in Chinese designs in its periphery and if this is properly coordinated and done fast, might put China into a back foot and warn it to go any further with its belligerence. Do you think India should do such a think? Whats your take?

  13. RUPAM:

    Taiwan is a rich state, it wont settle for Tejas which is not combat proven.
    A thought on India training Taiwanese pilots is as useless a proposition as a shipyard in Kabul. Think NSG and many such forthcoming confrontations on this.

    India is a gutless nation, it wont take China head on.
    Imagine Pakistan is printing its currency and screwing India’s economy albeit a wee bit. But what has India done against this?

    Mumbai blast actor Dawood Ibrahim is dancing n dinning in Karachi since years.
    India is no Israel.
    Chalk & cheese.

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