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The downward trend in Pak-US relations has pushed Islamabad towards China for the procurement of high-tech weaponry as the United States has again become an unreliable supplier for weaponry, said a Financial Times report.


“We have learnt over time that the Americans are terrible when it comes to honouring their promise,” a former minister told FT. “This was bound to end up in divorce.”


The move validated a slow but steady tilt towards China for military procurement as US weapons exports to Pakistan has plummeted from US$1 billion to US$21 million since 2010, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).


Although exports from China fell in the same period with a difference of US$233 million – US$747 million to US$514 million, it remains as the biggest weapons exporter to Islamabad. China is now selling and co-developing high-end systems for which Pakistan once depended on the US.


The US has used ‘sale of weapons’ as a leverage to manoeuvre its network of military alliances and partnerships – but many of those allies are now looking towards China for weapons exports.


According to Sipri, China saw an 88 per cent increase in its weapons sales between 2011-2015. “Twenty years ago, China did not have the technology to be able to compete with the west, but now there is not much difference,” says Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at Sipri. “Many countries also see Chinese supplies as more secure, as Beijing does not tend to cut them off over awkward issues such as democracy or human rights.”


“People are bored with the US — they have given up on the US. Let them stew in their own juice. Forget about them,” said Hussain.


Beijing filled the void with JF-17s – whose parts were made in China but assembled locally. It also shared the technology with Pakistan, allowing the country to manufacture and export the aircraft. The jets cost a third of an F-16s price.


In 2015, the US got another surprise when Pakistan reportedly carried out a strike by a drone resembling a Chinese model against militants along the Pak-Afghan border. The US has frequently turned down requests from Islamabad to buy American drone systems. Giving Beijing an opportunity to help Pakistan develop its own drone technology.


Arms sales have long been a tool of US foreign policy, to cement alliances and gain influence,” said Wezeman. “Now that Chinese technology is competitive, if American allies start saying they prefer the terms offered by China, that spells trouble for the US.”


“The problem for Washington is that there will come a time when you run out of levers,” the official told FT. “It is best to keep options and windows open.”