In­dia should not be con­cerned over F-16 sale to Pak­istan, says Pen­tagon

The Pak Banker - - NATIONAL -

The United States De­fense Depart­ment said on Tues­day that the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pak­istan should not be a cause of con­cern to In­dia as the deal "al­ways" took into ac­count the re­gional se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion.

In­dia has ex­pressed its dis­ap­point­ment at the de­ci­sion by the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion to sell to sell eight Lock­heed Martin F-16 fighter jets to Pak­istan, along with train­ing, radar and other equip­ment to help the coun­try in its coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions. Pak­istan ex­pressed sur­prise over the In­dian re­ac­tion to the pro­posed deal, worth $699 mil­lion.

Asked at a briefing about In­dia's re­ac­tion to the US de­ci­sion to sell the air­craft to Pak­istan, Pen­tagon Press Sec­re­tary Peter Cook said the United States looks at its re­la­tion­ship with Pak­istan and that with In­dia as "sep­a­rate re­la­tion­ships".

"We think this is im­por­tant ca­pa­bil­i­ties for the Pak­ista­nis to go af­ter ter­ror­ists in that coun­try," the spokesman said re­fer- ring to the F-16 fighter jets. "We don't think it should cause con­cern for In­dia."

The de­ci­sion by the US State Depart­ment to sell ad­di­tional F-16 air­craft to Pak­istan and a sub­se­quent no­ti­fi­ca­tion to Congress by the De­fense Se­cu­rity Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (DSCA), which bro­kers govern­ment-to-govern­ment arms sale, came in the face of staunch re­sis­tance by the In­dian lobby in Wash­ing­ton and some US Con­gress­men who ar­gued th­ese fighter jets would be used against In­dia.

The pro­posed F-16 deal also faced op­po­si­tion from some crit­ics in Wash­ing­ton, in­clud­ing Pak­istan's for­mer am­bas­sador to US Hus­sain Haqqani, who ar­gued against pro­vid­ing this se­cu­rity as­sis­tance to Pak­istan in a writ­ten tes­ti­mony to the Congress on Dec 8. But, th­ese ef­forts were thwarted by se­nior di­plo­mats in Wash­ing­ton who re­mained en­gaged with Capi­tol Hill and met sev­eral Sen­a­tors and Con­gress­men in re­cent weeks to make a case for Pak­istan.

This was in con­tin­u­a­tion of an ac­tive out­reach with mem­bers of the Congress that also saw Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif and the Chief of Army Staff Gen Ra­heel Sharif vis­it­ing the Capi­tol Hill last Novem­ber. The DSCA while no­ti­fy­ing the Congress stated that the sale will not al­ter the ba­sic mil­i­tary bal­ance in the re­gion and con­trib­utes to the US for­eign pol­icy ob­jec­tives and na­tional se­cu­rity goals by help­ing to im­prove the se­cu­rity of a strate­gic part­ner in South Asia.

Pen­tagon spokesman again re­it­er­ated the point at the press briefing about the im­por­tance of the F-16 deal. "We think this [sale of air­craft] is a ca­pa­bil­ity that will help Pak­istan in its coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­fort and we think that's in the na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests of the United States," he said. US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry last week sent his depart­ment's an­nual bud­get to Congress, propos­ing a fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance of $859.8m for Pak­istan, which in­cludes $265m for mil­i­tary hard­ware. This in­di­cates that Pak­istan will have to bear most of the costs for the F-16 deal. The pro­posed deal will now go through a 30-day no­ti­fi­ca­tion pe­riod af­ter which it will be fi­nalised.

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