The USD 450 million support for Pakistan F-16 program could be a precursor to getting Islamabad removed from FATF’s grey list and as reward for Rawalpindi supplying ammunition to Ukraine. Islamabad’s move to ask the Taliban regime to locate and arrest super Pakistani terrorist Masood Azhar is part of FATF relief exercise

Although the United States is a QUAD partner and a close ally, India has not taken the Biden administration's decision to provide USD 450 million F-16 fighter support to Pakistan lying down and expressed its displeasure through diplomatic channels to Washington.

While the US has provided support in the name of counter-terrorism and as per lifetime F-16 fighter support contract with Pakistan, the real reasons lie within the Rawalpindi Headquarters and with Army Chief Gen Qamar Jawed Bajwa. Washington, on its part, has let India know that the multi-million support will not impact India or alter the military balance in the Indian sub-continent.

However, the Modi government is not amused with this development and has let the Biden administration know about its views on the entire issue as the fighters will be used against India like they were on February 27, 2019 as a retaliation to India’s Balakot strike on Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist camp a day earlier.

Pakistan and US watchers believe that the F-16 support has been given to Rawalpindi because of the following reasons:

· Gen Bajwa has been instrumental in supplying ammunition in support of Ukraine’s war effort against Pakistan’s newfound ally Russia using British aircraft.

· It is also a reward for the Pakistan Army led by Gen Bajwa for remaining neutral during the ouster of former PM Imran Khan Niazi, who once was weaponized by the same Army Chief to get rid of Nawaz Sharif in the last general elections. Niazi was in Moscow and met ally Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, the day the Red Army invaded Ukraine.

· It is also US recognition for Gen Bajwa’s efforts to lower down temperatures with India on the Line of Control (LoC) with guns falling silent on the borders.

Although the support is only to maintain the F-16 fighters with Pakistan and not upgradation of military capabilities or fresh ordnance or air to air missiles, India is cheesed with the narrative put out by the US State Department to justify the foreign military sale for sustainment and related equipment for the fighters.

The fact is that Pakistan desperately needs spare parts for its F-16 fleet as the Chinese JF-17 aircraft has come out a cropper in military terms. Even during the Feb 27, 2019 strike, the Pakistani F-16 fired missiles at intercepting Indian fighters with the JF-17 fighters playing no role in the counter-offensive.

The official Pentagon version justifying the support package to Pakistan read: “ This will sustain Islamabad’s capability to meet the current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet as well as support American foreign policy and national security objectives by allowing interoperability in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations.”

“After this support, one would like to hear External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s reply to anybody asking questions on India buying oil from Russia in the context of the Ukraine crisis,” said a senior diplomat.

Pakistan watchers say that US support for the F-16 program is not going to be the only sop for Rawalpindi as grounds are being prepared to get Islamabad off the FATF grey list. This is quite evident from the Pakistani ploy of asking the Taliban regime to locate and arrest JeM’s super terrorist Masood Azhar in Afghanistan. This move is to accede to FATF demands that Pakistan act against Azhar and his terror factory, which is based in Bahawalpur in Punjab. The new narrative is being deliberately orchestrated to show that Azhar has relocated to Kunar province of Afghanistan after the Taliban occupied Kabul on August 15, 2021.