As Pakistan controlled the escalation ladder and time & space between 26th February and 27th by decisive dominance, Indian reaction was not surprising that instead of conceding and accepting the loss, they started to build a narrative against Pakistan’s, allegedly, use of F-16 aircrafts and officially claimed that an F-16 was downed by WC Abhinandan’s MiG-21. As a proof they showed an AMRAAM piece which was refuted immediately. Later, Foreign Policy Magazine shoot down Indian claim of downing a Pakistani F-16 and DG ISPR hammered the last nail in Indian claims coffin by showing the MiG-21’s all intact missiles.
Keeping aside the way Indian Air Force was used as a tool for BJP’s xenophobic and jingoistic Election propaganda that Modi is the only Messiah who has come to succor Indian nation against the threat of “bleeding India with thousand cuts”, question is, as to why India is so keen to prove that F-16s were used and downed as well? Funny, it seemed that India wanted to go on war with Pakistan at its own terms, dictating Pakistan as to which equipment was supposed to be used against her and which could not. Is the claim of downing a Pakistani F-16 really, just, to salvage the lost pride in front of domestic audience or there is a ‘method in this madness’ to keep Pakistan deprived of technology and advanced defense equipment by crying ‘foul’? I believe in later.
Let’s discuss the historic perspective on India’s harping on same string in front of USA about use of her arms against Pakistan. Indian concerns (read: propaganda) regarding Pakistan receiving American weapons is not a recent phenomenon. This has been an essential part of India’s foreign policy, for decades.
When M.C Chagla was appointed as Indian Ambassador to US in 1958, his one of the major tasks was to convince US government to put an embargo on weapon sale to Pakistan. Reminiscing his duties as ambassador, he writes in his Autobiography, Roses In December,
And I would have to point out the dire consequences of the policy pursued by the United States in entering into a defence pact with Pakistan and supplying arms to her, something that only resulted in neutralizing the effect of the economic aid which the United States was giving us, since the supply of arms to Pakistan compelled us to spend more on our own armaments, in fact to enter into a regular arms race with that country. For although the arms had been supplied by the United States to Pakistan on the clear understanding that these were only intended to be used in the fight against communism, Pakistan had made it clear that if the necessity arose she would not hesitate to use them against India.
At another instance, MC Chagla elaborates the same Indian rhetoric or position on Pakistan’s arms pact with US.
The usual questions about India and Pakistan were asked, and my answer was that it largely depended upon American policy whether normal relations prevailed between India and Pakistan. “If you will only realize what the real consequences of military aid to Pakistan are, you will start thinking afresh about the question. It is not only I who say this, but some of your most eminent thinkers have said it. Mr. Harriman calls it starting a race of armaments between India and Pakistan.’ Lippmann has been saying the same thing. Therefore it is up to you, and the press here, to realize the importance of reducing tension between India and Pakistan.”
When Mr. Durga Das, a diarist, in his book criticized Mc Chagla that he made speeches against Pakistan in order to gain publicity for himself, Chagla refuted him in his autobiography in these words,
With regard to my speeches about Pakistan, Mr. Durga Das forgets that one of the main objects of my mission in the United States was to explain to the Americans the nature of Indo-Pak relations, and to show the harm that the American Government was causing by a continuous supply of arms to Pakistan.
Later MC Chagla was made Minister of External Affairs in November 1966. He served at this position till September 1967. During this tenure whenever he had to deal with Pakistani affairs, he took up the issue of US arms being sold to Pakistan. While recalling his ‘Pakistan Policy’, in his autobiography, Chagla emphasized on US arms sale to Pakistan, criticized US policies with regards to Pakistan, Chinese Threat and Pakistan potentially falling into Chinese orbit, as below:
Throughout this period there was considerable anxiety, both in Parliament and in public about the decision of the United States to resume arms supplies to Pakistan. It is really difficult to understand U.S. policy with regard to Pakistan. It makes no sense on any rational consideration. The U.S. knew that Pakistan had used American arms against India in the 1965 conflict. It also knew or ought to know that a strong democratic India is essential for peace in this part of the world, and also to help guard against the Chinese threat. She realizes that the arming of Pakistan must result in an arms race between the two countries. And while America was giving considerable economic aid to our country, it was at the same time taking action which cannot but compel us to divert a considerable part of our revenues from nation-building activities to defence purposes. It seems to me that there are two reasons underlying American policy, both of which are untenable. In the first place, America wants to balance India s strength by having a strong Pakistan as a neighbour. But this balancing theory has never worked, and can never work. India with her tremendous resources and enormous potentialities, with a large population and area, must always be stronger than her neighbour. The second reason is to prevent Pakistan edging nearer and nearer the Chinese, and finally falling into China’s orbit. It is difficult to understand how the Chinese embrace of Pakistan could be closer or tighter than it already is, or indeed how the two can be wholly driven apart. Sino-Pakistan relations are governed by geography and the logic of power politics. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Pakistan wants Chinese friendship as much as she wants American or Russian friendship. She also plays a balancing game of her own. As long as Pakistan insists on regarding India as her enemy, so long would she be compelled to have a special relationship with China. This is common sense. We made strong representations to the United States on the resumption of arms aid and we also pointed out that the arms supplied by America to her allies, particularly Turkey and Iran, were also being transferred to Pakistan. But our protests were of no avail, and the usual unsatisfactory assurances were given which were not worth the paper on which they were recorded.
Even when Mr. Chagla, visited Iran, he took up the issue of arms being sold to Pakistan. He pens down:
…When I met the Foreign Minister we discussed the question of arms aid to Pakistan. As this became a matter of considerable controversy afterwards…
Humiliated and surprised by the Pakistan’s “Operation Swift Retort”, Modi was trying to regain some face saving when he spoke at the award ceremony for the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology in New Delhi and quipped that a “pilot project” was over and “real project” would be conducted now. What exactly was the “pilot project” and which real project is going to be conducted now, would be the subject matter of concerned and ‘subject matter’ experts would definitely be pondering upon, however, one can infer from India’s foreign policy objectives, as per veteran (late) Mr. Chagla, that one of the projects of putting a ban on US arms’ sale to Pakistan has been achieved, already. The project of selling India’s democracy as essential to world’s peace and China as threat seems not to be working, for now, since BRI has become the biggest club of the world’s collective wisdom after UNO and Pakistan is already in Chinese orbit.
Referring to the post 27 February 2019 statements from Indian Airforce regarding Pakistan’s use of F-16 and false claims of even downing the same contain such a stark similarity with the ones referred to as part of duty of Indian Ambassador in 1958. This only shows that it has been one of India’s Foreign Policy’s objectives to raise fingers on arms sale to Pakistan and it has been successful in it since Pakistan is not a ‘preferred’ customer of American weapons, anymore. This might have not been possible without India’s continuous lobbying against Pakistan in Washington.
India’s one of the next goals is to become permanent member of UNSC and has continuously been lobbying for that for decades now. Pakistan’s Foreign Office has an uphill task in front of it.