New Delhi expressed disappointment on Saturday over the Pentagon’s decision to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, Indian news outlets reported. The United States government announced it had approved the sale a day earlier.
India’s Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned US Ambassador Richard Verma to convey the country’s ‘displeasure’ over the possible sale. Their meeting at the external affairs ministry lasted 45 minutes, according to various Indian news sites, including The Hindu, Times of India and Indian Express.
Earlier in the day, the spokesman for India’s external affairs ministry took to Twitter to express disappointment over the move. “We are disappointed at the decision of the Obama Administration to notify the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan,” Vikas Swarup posted on the microblogging website.
“We disagree with their [Washington’s] rationale that such arms transfers help to combat terrorism. The record of the last many years in this regard speaks for itself,” he said.
While New Delhi’s outrage is unlikely to change the decision to sell F-16s to Pakistan, the move has also been opposed by some members of the US Congress. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last week, Republican Senator Bob Corker said he would block the sale.
“I cannot allow the Obama administration to use taxpayer funds to support the sale of the jets,” said Corker, who is also the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. However, he suggested that the Pakistani government should be welcome to purchase the advanced fighter jets with its own money.
The planned sale is to be subsidised through the US State Department’s foreign military sales programme announced last year which aims to reward Pakistan for its counter-terror efforts. The US is expected to cover at least 46% of the deal which is valued at $699 million. In addition to eight F-16s, the deal also includes the sale of radars and other military equipment.
Talking to DefenseNews, a US government official set aside India’s objections to F-16 deal, saying that while there had been Congressional objections to the sale, “contrary to erroneous reports, concerns were raised in regard to financing the sale, not the transfer itself.”
“We support the proposed sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan, which we view as the right platform in support of Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations,” he was quoted by the defence publication as saying.
“These operations reduce the ability of militants to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism and a base of support for the insurgency in Afghanistan, which is in the national interests of both Pakistan and the United States, and in the interest of the region more broadly,” the official added.
In its statement notifying the US congress of the decision to sell Pakistan F-16s, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which coordinates such arms deals, also said the proposed sale will “contribute to US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia.”
“The proposed sale [also] improves Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats,” it added. According to DSCA, the F-16s will allow Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to operate in all kinds of weather and at night, “enhancing Pakistan’s ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations.”
Following the notification, US lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale. Such an action is rare, however, as deals like this are well-vetted before any formal notification.
In a statement earlier in response to opposition to the sale, a spokesperson for Pakistan’s embassy in Washington had said that “F-16s have proven to be the most potent vehicle for conducting precision strikes against terrorists.”
PAF currently operates 76 F-16 fighters. The latest sale, if it goes through, will boost the fleet to 84 aircraft.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2016.