Strangely, days after the meeting between the American President Trump and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pentagon informed the US Congress of its decision to approve military sales worth 125 million to Pakistan. The US government claims that it is being given under the Foreign Military Sales programme to be disbursed to 60 US contractors as salaries and is only for around the clock monitoring of the use of F-16 aircraft in Pakistan as spelt out in the end-user agreement between US and Pakistan. But what exactly is strange? Firstly, why is it that the Pentagon cannot pay its inspectors directly for the work being done on their behalf? And secondly, what about the US admission that it is in response to Pakistan's request for continuation of technical and logistical support services?

Apparently, a game is being played. I suspect that these US contractors will be engineers of the Lockheed Martin, manufactures of the F-16 aircraft, and they would upgrade the necessary infrastructure of the F-16 aircraft to be able to carry advanced versions of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missiles as compared to the current variant, which was not adequately successful in Balakot and post-Balakot aerial combat. Modern air-wars are seen as BVR missile-wars where targets as far as 150 kms could be easily engaged using aircraft's own radar. Obviously, Pakistan has taken serious note of the development of Astra BVR missile by India's DRDO being fit on Su-30MKI and MiG-29 combat planes apart from longer reach being inducted from Russia, the existing equally potent missiles on Mirage-2000 and most dangerous of all, the Meteor on the Rafale being inducted.

In fact, after the shooting down of the F-16 aircraft by the much older Indian MiG-Bison, there was not only inevitable consternation in the Pakistani Camp but also in the Lockheed Martin group who were extremely fearful of the adverse publicity. At that time the US magazine Foreign Policy had risen in their support and brought out a story by Lara Seligman in which she had quoted two senior US defence officials with direct knowledge of the situation that US personnel recently counted Islamabad's F-16s and found none missing. She, apparently, was saying this at the bidding of Pentagon. This correspondent for many years covered Military Aviation and was very close to the Pentagon and thus to Lockheed Martin, who have deep inroads into Pentagon. In fact, the Pentagon, away from public gaze, supports US arms manufacturers.

The stoppage of US arms aid to Pakistan itself is full of paradoxes. The US government just invented a ruse to deliver weapon systems. They provided F-16 aircraft to Pakistan seemingly for fighting terrorists. This logic itself is full of holes. How can a fighter plane be effectively used against a few terrorists on the move or hiding in the mountain-side? This falsehood truly surfaced when post-Balakot the Indian Government raised the point about Pakistan using F-16s and produced a crashed AMRAAM missile used on F-16 as evidence. At the same, they brought to the notice of the US Government the clear violation of the end-user agreement with them. The US government chose to respond several months later, only to say, that since the agreement between the US and Pakistan is strictly confidential they would neither comment on nor divulge the nature of agreements. It is sad to admit that we were living in a fools' paradise.

We must acknowledge that since the very beginning of the emergence of Pakistan, the US considered Pakistan a frontline state. We would recall CENTO. The Central Treaty Organisation was one of the Cold War's weirdest alliances. This was largely the result of the improbable quintet of nations making up the Organisation: Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The United States was integral in setting-up the alliance in 1955, yet never became a member itself.

Then came the Reagan Doctrine. This doctrine was a centrepiece of United States foreign policy from the early 1980s until the end of the Cold War in 1991. Under this Doctrine, the United States provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist guerrillas and resistance movements in an effort to "roll back" Soviet-backed pro-communist governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The doctrine was designed to diminish Soviet influence in these regions as part of the administration's overall strategy to win the Cold War. And in Afghanistan, Pakistan was its principal ally which spearheaded in raising a force of Mujahideen fighters trained by CIA in collusion with Pakistan's ISI. It broke the Soviet back.

Let me reiterate. Pakistan will continue to be useful to the US despite its present alleged anathema on terrorist linkages. Although, the US-India relationship is globally being described as a strategic centrepiece but is it mere business or more? Defence acquisition from the US has crossed over $13 billion (2017) and they included 13 C 130 J Hercules aircraft, 10 C -17 Globemaster, 12 P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Boeing, 22 AH 64 Apache helicopters, 15 CH 47 Chinook helicopters and 145 M777 Howitzers.