It has been clear for some time now that there has been a gradual and perhaps lasting decline in the US-Pakistan relations; even if we consider the notoriously fickle and contingency based nature of the bilateral relationship. The Afghan theatre is closed now, and Pakistan’s status as the prime regional ally is no more – as was expected.

But the military deals between the two nations, which had been the mainstay of Pakistan’s defence equipment procurement regime, and which were expected to continue beyond the Afghan conflict, seem to be going through a dramatic change over too. Collation Support Funds have been withheld, new subsides have been revoked and overall there has been a 73 percent decline in US aid to Pakistan since 2011, according to a Congressional report. However, the latest developments may be the most difficult to swallow.

Lockeed Martin, the global security and aerospace company has mooted an offer to shift all of its F-16 manufacturing to India, which could give New Delhi partial control, along with the US, over which countries are able to purchase the jets and spare parts. This is worrying news for Pakistan, whose air force is built around a strong F-16 fleet. The fact that the company spokesperson and the US defence department declined to comment on future sales to Pakistan, makes the concerns more serious. The deal is still in the realm of possibility, but if it goes through, Pakistan might have to face a scenario where it has to source its F-16 upgrades from other countries instead from the manufacturing company.

Troubling as this is, there is still time for damage control. The government and the military can exercise its good offices to ensure that the supply line for its F-16 fleet remains free from political concerns – the military cooperation with the US isn’t dead yet, and concessions can be won. It can also preemptively seek other alternatives for getting parts and upgrades, just as it is planning to purchase new F-16s from Jordan.

However, the ultimate solution remains self-sufficiency and a rethink of defence policy based on geopolitical lines. The JF-Thunder – jointly developed with China – has shown great potential to replace the F-16 as the leading fighter plane of the air force, and has already entered production; just at the right time.

Pakistan needs to diversify its military equipment rooster so that a downturn in one bilateral relationship does not put its whole strategy off balance.