ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) – With US-Pakistan relations hit a new low in 2018, Islamabad is reducing its dependence on US while China is filling the gap for military procurement, says a Financial Times report.
According to the report, the shift started when the US Congress blocked sale of military aircrafts to Pakistan.
While the announcement garnered little attention in Washington, it was a much bigger deal in Pakistan: by withdrawing financing support, the US had in effect increased the price of the new F-16s from $270m to $700m.
As a result, Pakistan is focusing instead on the rollout of the next batch of the JF-17, the fighter jet it is developing with China, and which is catching up with the F-16 in terms of capabilities. Pakistan’s response encapsulated what had been a slow but steady shift in military procurement away from American-made weapons towards Chinese ones, or those made domestically with Chinese support.
“Since 2010, US weapons exports to Pakistan have plummeted from $1bn to just $21m last year, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,” report added. During the same period, those from China have also fallen, but much more slowly, from $747m to $514m, making China the biggest weapons exporter to its southern neighbour.
The report also quotes, the shift coincided with Islamabad’s growing suspicion about the closeness between the US and India, but was accelerated by the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil in 2011, which badly damaged relations with the US.
It further added that this year, relations deteriorated again when President Donald Trump suspended $2bn of military aid to Pakistan, accusing it of showing “nothing but lies and deceit” in its promises to crack down on the Taliban and affiliated groups.
“The problem for Trump is that he needs support from Pakistan as he recommits to the war in Afghanistan, and his officials are finding that Islamabad is less responsive than usual to the US message.”
Harrison Akins, a research fellow at the Howard H Baker Jr Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, told FT: The Trump administration s decision … can only push Pakistan further into the arms of Beijing — especially with Pakistan s shift from US military supplies to Chinese military supplies.
The report also identified longer-term consequences of this development, noting that sales of weapons systems, often backed by preferential financial terms, were central to the way the US managed its network of military alliances and partnerships. But many of those countries were now buying some of that hardware from other governments, particularly China.
The Financial Times noted that Pakistan has been buying from Beijing for decades, starting after the US placed an arms embargo on it in the wake of the 1965 war with India. After that, every time Islamabad has suffered diplomatic problems with Washington supplies of Chinese weapons have risen, it added.