Does Trump think India and Pakistan are merely modern-day Roman gladiators in his arena?
I admit that selling arms to both countries makes good business sense. Sell one thing to Pakistan, and the thing to defend itself against that thing, sell that to India. It generates much business for Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and Trump can MAGA with all that money.
The whole world is Trump’s arena, and he can pick any country to be his gladiator. All are expendable, the way gladiators were slaves or condemned prisoners in the Roman Empire of 100 BCE, or thereabouts. They had a short life expectancy and were meant solely for the entertainment of the Roman public. It seems that’s who we are, people who are going to use these weapons against each other until India-Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran, that whole contiguous patch of land is destroyed like Iraq and Syria. Incidentally, all these lands were once the seat of one of Earth’s most ancient and sophisticated civilisations of the time, the Harappan civilisation, around 3000 BCE.
Donald Trump can walk out of international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal, despite objections from the other members, on a hunch that Iran would not confine itself to peaceful use of nuclear energy, quoting Israeli intel. Maybe it’s true, but he ought to have discussed this with the other members first. Trump can ring up and chat on the phone with Khalifa Haftar, the military dictator of Libya, ignoring its effect on the authority of the elected Prime Minister Sarraj and, therefore, on the stability of Libya. Trump can unilaterally slap sanctions on Iran or Venezuela and order other countries to not buy oil from them. And so on.
The US is selling US$ 125 million worth of tech and logistics support for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Pakistan owns 75 F-16s. They were originally sold to Pakistan for the global fight against terrorism. Later, they were upgraded with advanced radars, targeting systems, fire-and-forget missiles and precision-guided munitions. For the global fight against terrorists, right? Who might these terrorists be, and where do they operate? In a post-truth world any inconvenient entity can be branded a terrorist and attacked.
There is apparently a clause in the sale documents that is supposed to prevent their deployment against Indian military installations. So, at least on paper, we are safe, though that hasn’t been borne out by the events following Balakot. Once you hand over something potentially explosive to someone with a propensity to misuse it, you’ve practically given a carte blanche, like pictures and videos that teenage girls trustingly share with their boyfriends on Whatsapp.
Meanwhile, the US is also selling several C-17 Globemaster III airlift aircraft, manufactured by Boeing, to the Indian Air Force. This sale is worth US$ 670 million. It detects missile threats – obviously from the enemy – and the crew can select the countermeasures they need to take. That would be the start of a war, wouldn’t it? The US has also sold India four Apache Guardian attack choppers armed with missiles. We are waiting on eighteen more. They apparently cost INR 13,950 crore. Whatever that converts to in US dollars, it’s a lot of money. These are – as the name indicates – for attack, and to keep us mission-ready. That sounds terrifying. To be fair, I can’t blame the US entirely for selling us these, because we’re buying, aren’t we? There’s no gun to our heads. But we might have never needed them if Pakistan hadn’t become adventurous and overconfident, thanks to US’ support over the past few decades. Of course, the US genuinely believed Pakistanis to be their partners in the ‘war on terror’, as George W. Bush called it, and it’s a pity they were taken in.
In addition, India is buying the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft weapon system from Russia. It is a long-range surface-to-air missile system. This is obviously used to destroy enemy aircraft or missiles violating our air space. Do we expect to need these soon? On the other hand, many countries have purchased S-400s, so maybe it is something many countries keep in their arsenal, just in case. For some reason, Trump has threatened us with sanctions if we dare to buy them, regardless of the fact that we need to honour a deal made with Russia long ago, and Russia and India have always had a good equation. The ‘with us or against us’ binary can’t be blindly applied. India belonged to the non-aligned group during the Cold War but is now what Shashi Tharoor describes as multi-aligned.
And now Trump is going to restore US$ 1.3 billion aid to Pakistan if it does what the US wants:
- Help the US exit Afghanistan by getting the Taliban to achieve full ceasefire and participate in talks with the Afghan government.
- Crack down on terrorism on its soil.
These are tall orders. Imran Khan returned from the US to Pakistan in a happy frame of mind last week and one of the first things he heard was that ten Pak soldiers had been killed, six of them by the Taliban. How will he cut the Gordian knot to keep his end of the deal with Trump? To digress a little, is it true that Blackwater mercenaries will replace the US soldiers in Afghanistan when troops withdraw? There was a documentary about this on TV and I thought this plan rather alarming.
Whatever I have expressed here has taken me a few hours to piece together. Most of the information is from the humble daily newspaper – the Times of India reporter, Chidanand Rajghatta, to be precise – with some help from the Internet. I can’t process the mind-boggling numbers Rajghatta quotes, but I’ve mentioned them to reflect how much money is involved in the lucrative business of war.
I am uneasy about all this, otherwise I wouldn’t have tried to wrap my head around a topic like this that I normally avoid thinking about. Peace between India and Pakistan would be nice. Iran and Afghanistan matter to India just as the UK, France and Germany matter to the US; they are friends. India and the US are natural partners on a range of issues, but nobody has yet said we are friends, though we hope we will be, in accordance with the definition of the word friend.
This post is not about feeling victimised. It’s about the POTUS being completely blind to other countries’ relationships with nations other than America. Other countries are not his vassals, they have their own sovereignty, and I wish someone who has his ear would tell him that.