- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A U.S. commitment to provide India with top-of-the-line technology as India modernizes its armed forces and builds its own defense industry is likely to cause unease in Pakistan, which also wants U.S. equipment to prosecute its war against terrorists.

The Obama administration has sought to assure Pakistan, as well as China, that its burgeoning defense ties with India do not pose a threat. But analysts say that despite such assurances, major defense deals with either of the nuclear-armed rivals are bound to create unease.

Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani defense analyst with the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said the sale of advanced technology to India will “perturb Pakistan beyond imagination.”

“Such deals will be seen as excessively strengthening India, have a major impact on the future of Pakistan” and could exacerbate an arms race between India and Pakistan, she said.

In a major policy speech last week, Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, described herself as a very strong advocate of “U.S. solutions for India’s defense needs.” She said U.S. companies are eager to work with India.

The U.S. has sold C-130J “Super” Hercules transport planes and P-8I anti-submarine warfare and long-range patrol aircraft to India as part of the growing defense trade between the two countries. The U.S. also wants to sell C-17 military transport planes to its Asian ally.

Two U.S. companies, Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., are among the leading competitors for a $10 billion sale of 126 advanced fighter aircraft to the Indian air force. This is currently the world’s biggest defense tender.

While Boeing wants to sell the F-18 Super Hornet to India, Lockheed Martin is offering the F-16IN Super Viper.

Johnny Whitaker, director of international communications at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., said the F-16IN has been “specifically designed to meet or exceed Indian air force requirements and will be the most advanced version of the F-16 ever produced.”

The latest advancements in weapons, sensors and mission capabilities have been added to the fighter jet.

“Lockheed Martin and our F-16 suppliers will transfer the knowledge to Indian industry to allow them to indigenously produce and support the aircraft,” Mr. Whitaker said.

On Tuesday, India rolled out its first naval variant of the indigenously produced light combat aircraft (LCA), providing a boost to its efforts to manufacture a fleet of fighter jets for its aircraft carriers.

Historically, India and Pakistan have viewed each other’s defense purchases with suspicion. The two neighbors have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

Teresita Schaffer, director of the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “Pakistan will have its eye on Indias military purchases” this time as well.

But if the U.S. didn’t sell this equipment, India would buy it from some other country, she said. “So for the U.S. to withhold sales would certainly not stop an effort by Pakistan to balance these purchases. So the key decision is Indias decision to buy, not the U.S. decision to sell,” she said.

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