Did the United States shoot the Super Hornet in the foot in India against the Rafale ?

While the Indian authorities have still not announced their arbitration regarding the acquisition of 26 on-board fighters to arm the new aircraft carrier INS Vikrant which entered service at the beginning of September, an American decision could well severely handicap Boeing's offer with the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet for this competition, leaving free rein At Rafale M French. Indeed, at the beginning of September, the American authorities issued a favorable opinion in order to allow Pakistan to modernize part of its F-16 fleet, provoking the anger, as well as a certain incomprehension, of the Indian officials. The American export authorization relates to various software evolutions, spare parts and various technical supports, and does not represent a major evolution of the offensive or defensive capacities of the Pakistani F-16s according to Washington. However, this argument advanced by the American authorities to try to attenuate the ire of New Delhi, hardly seems to bear fruit.

It seems that Washington's decision to lift the technological embargo on Islamabad imposed by Donald Trump amid tensions over the Afghan issue, was influenced by India's neutral position vis-à-vis Russia on the subject of the conflict. in Ukraine. Thus, after years of tension between Islamabad and Washington, Joe Biden meets Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a formal meeting on September 22 on the occasion of the 77th United Nations Assembly in New York, with the obvious ambition of normalizing relations between the two former allies, against a background of recomposition of the balance of power in the Caucasus and Asia Minor linked to the weakening of Russian positions. For Washington, it was a question of trying to break Beijing's increasingly firm grip on the Pakistani economy and defense, while for Islamabad, it was a question of trying to break out of the Western isolation imposed by the United States since 2018.

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But for the authorities and the Indian public opinion, this change of posture is perceived as a reversal difficult to accept on the part of the United States. Indeed, if New Delhi is ready for a certain rapprochement with the United States to control the rise of Chinese power, Pakistan nevertheless remains the historical adversary which has already attacked the country three times. In fact, the easing of Pakistani-American relations, which is moreover in the field of defense technology exports, however limited they may be, goes very badly, all the more so when it is perceived as a measure of coercion vis-à-vis - vis-à-vis international postures relating to national sovereignty. In fact, it is likely that this paradigm shift in relations between the United States and Pakistan will have a significant influence in future arbitrations concerning, in particular, defense equipment programs, as is the case with the program MRCA 2 to replace the Mig-21 and Jaguar of the Indian Air Force, but also concerning the acquisition program of 26 on-board fighters to arm the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.


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