New Delhi (Sputnik): The wreckage of an AMRAAM missile, which is a US made air-to-air missile fitted on F-16s, was recovered on Indian territory after a dogfight in which an Indian MiG 21 was shot down, and the Indian pilot was captured on Pakistan territory. Following the clash, India continues to maintain that it shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 over Pakistani territory — a claim disputed by Islamabad. Nevertheless, the US has said that it wants to know whether Pakistan really used an F-16 jet to down the Indian Air Force's MiG-21 in violation of America's military sales agreement.
Sputnik talked to Robinder Sachdev, president of the Imagindia Institute, a New Delhi-based think-tank, on the alleged use of an F-16 by Pakistan and its ramifications.
Sputnik: A major controversy has erupted between the US and Pakistan over the alleged use of a US-built F-16 fighter plane against India. What is your take on the matter?
Robinder Sachdev: At present, the reply that the US has asked from Pakistan may best be described as part of a Standard-Operating-Procedure by the US under which it seeks details when any reports come that US-supplied weapons or armaments have been misused by any of its clients — as is being charged by India in this case.
Robinder Sachdev: It is not clear if the use of F-16 against India has violated the military sales agreement because the end-user agreement has a non-disclosure clause and is not in the public domain. However, what is known is that when the sale with the AMRAAM missiles was effected in 2006-08, it was announced that the F-16's will be used only for counter-terrorism and defensive purposes. Also, what is known is that about a dozen security conditions were built into the end-user agreement — some of these conditions included semi-annual inventories of all F-16 aircraft equipment and munitions, including related technical data, and that F-16 flights outside Pakistan or participation in exercises and operations with third nations must be approved in advance by the US government.
Robinder Sachdev: The truth will come out when the US conducts an inventory check. However, even if proven that F-16s were used, Pakistan may claim that it was using the aircraft and fired the AMRAAM missile in self-defence, from within its own territory, and that the planes never entered Indian air-space.
In case it is proven that Pakistan violated the end-user agreement, then the US may consider some steps — but the US response will also be guided by the complexity that it needs Pakistan to work with it in order to progress on its strategy regarding Afghanistan. The US has already suspended aid to Pakistan, and there is not much else the US can do which will have punch — barring sanctions, which again, the US may not want to impose.
Sputnik: Will the US stop sales of military hardware/weapons to Pakistan?
Robinder Sachdev: [The] US response cannot be estimated at present — unless it is clearly established that Pakistan violated the agreement, and also due to the complications regarding Afghanistan where the US wants Pakistan's collaboration. However, the US response may be stricter if the US Congress takes up this issue and demands that the US administration take punitive action against Pakistan for flouting the conditions of the sale. The key will be the sales contract and end-user agreement that were made — if there were any specific punitive clauses for violating the agreement, then those clauses will kick in.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.