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Sanket Telang asked: Why doesn't India Buy F-16s and F-18s from U.S.A? Is that not better than complaining about U.S selling arms to Pakistan?

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  • Cherian Samuel replies: India has no objections to buying the above mentioned aircraft from the USA; in fact, both Lockheed Martins’s F-16 Fighting Falcon and Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet are among the six shortlisted contenders for the Indian Air Force’s intended purchase of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) worth $ 8.5 billion. There are merits and demerits to purchasing US aircraft; while these aircraft are cheaper than the other European manufactured aircraft in the fray, there are many limitations imposed by US laws and regulations governing export of sensitive technologies that reduce the capabilities of the aircraft on offer. While the US says it is willing to ensure that these aircraft come with the latest technologies, this is contingent on India signing a number of agreements, something the Indian government is unwilling to do, since they contain clauses that would impinge on our strategic autonomy. Problems with earlier purchases of weapons arising out of such clauses also raise questions of the reliability of the US as an arms supplier. These issues would have to be settled before India can go in for purchases.

    The issue of the US selling F-16s to Pakistan is a separate issue altogether. India has objected to the fact that the United States is funding weapons purchases by Pakistan, going up from $700 million in 2010 to 1.5 billion in 2011, ostensibly for its counter-insurgency efforts. While much of these could be used in a conflict against India, it also frees up Pakistan to use its own funds to buy US armaments such as F-16s, thus indirectly fuelling an arms race in the sub-continent. The ultimate beneficiary of such an arms race would be armament manufacturers, be it in the US or elsewhere.