The US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, argued strongly with her Government to sell Pakistan more F-16 fighter jets to, ironically, prevent a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
Patterson, in a 2009 cable, pointed out that Pakistan is likely to use Nuclear weapons against India in a matter a few days if the two countries go to war with each other again, because Pakistan would start losing the war by then.
“To overcome overwhelming Indian military superiority, Pakistan developed both its nuclear and missile program and its air power,” she wrote two years ago, according to Wikileaks.
She pointed out that India had nearly double the number of jets (736 to 370 jets) that Pakistan has and many of them have the ability to fire missiles at targets that cannot be seen directly in front or are beyond the visual range. Pakistani jets, she points out, can only fire at targets in sight and urged the US to help Pakistan overcome the power imbalance.
She pointed out that a Pakistan which is evenly or nearly evenly matched with India is less likely to attack India with Nuclear weapons than one which felt it stands no chance.
“F-16 aircraft, armed with AMRAAM [beyond visual-range missiles], essentially buy time to delay Pakistan considering the nuclear option in a conflict with India. Given India’s overwhelming military superiority, this would only be a few days, but these days would allow critical time to mediate and prevent nuclear conflict,” she said.
The Ambassador’s comments make it clear that despite political statements on “no first use” of Nuclear weapons, the Americans expect the Pakistanis to use Nuclear weapons against India in case of a war, albeit a few days after the war starts.
Patterson pointed out that, as of 2009, Pakistan didn’t stand much of a chance of winning a war against India unless it used Nukes.
“Pakistan’s shortfalls in training and tactics multiply India’s edge. Pakistan also plans to buy/jointly produce 150 inferior JF-17 fighters from China, but it is unclear how they will pay for them. Meanwhile, India plans to acquire 126 multi-purpose fighters (F-18 or equivalent) that will give India significant new technologies and further expand its air superiority over Pakistan,” she worried.
In another cable, she also pointed out that India will not be threatened by the F-16s as it is in the process of buying even more advanced jets.
“The escalation of Indo-Pak tensions following the Mumbai attacks demonstrated to the Pakistanis that the threat from India still exists. The Pakistani F-16 program, however, will be no match for India’s proposed purchase of F-18 or equivalent aircraft,” she said.
She also pointed out that her purpose in recommending the sale was not simply to even the odds against India.
“We do deny Pakistan requests for arms sales that could upset the regional balance of power,” she argued, adding that on February 20, she had recommended that Washington should reject Pakistan’s request to buy the Coastal targeting Suppression System, which gives AGM-84 Harpoon ship missiles the capability of hitting land targets.
“This acquisition would have given Pakistan an overt offensive capability to threaten India and served no counter insurgency purpose,” she said.
But, she said, the Pakistani army must be beefed up to help the US in fighting terror.
“Our goal is to enable Pakistan to fight the militants using Pakistani safe havens so that we will not have to deploy U.S. troops to do the job. Post agrees that F-16s are not the ideal tool for targeting militants and we are working to enhance Pakistan’s combat helicopter fleet/capabilities.
“Pakistan already is using its F-16s in counter-insurgency operations in the tribal areas, but its inability to executive precision targeting or fly at night creates counter-productive civilian casualties and minimizes operations. The new/MLU aircraft and their munitions packages (with JDAMs and GBUs) will improve Pakistan’s precision strike and night vision capability,” she pointed out.
Coincidentally, India’s defence minister AK Antony raised a red flag on Saturday over Pakistan milking the US’ War on Terror funds to strengthen its defences against India.
Giving into the demand, the Obama administration last year supplied 17 out of the 18 F-16 fighter jets that Pakistan wanted. F-16s are one of the most widely used fighter jets in the World, with deployments in most countries that buy jets from others.