The United States Defense Department on Tuesday said the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan should not be of concern to India and the deal took into account the regional security situation.
“The US looks at its relationship with Pakistan and with India as a separate relationship,” Pentagon Press Secretary Petro Cook said while addressing a briefing about India’s reaction to US decision to sell aircraft to Pakistan.
“We think these are important capabilities for Pakistan to go after terrorists,” the spokesperson said, while referring to the F-16 aircraft which had been playing an important role in the ongoing military operation against terrorists.
“We don’t think it should be a cause concern for India,” he added.
India has expressed disappointment at the Obama administration’s decision to sell eight Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, along with training, radar and other equipment, a deal worth $699 million. Pakistan expressed surprise over the Indian reaction to the proposed deal.
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 Washington, Hussain Haqqani, who argued against providing such security assistance to Pakistan in a written testimony to the Congress on December 8.
But, these efforts were thwarted by senior diplomats in Washington who remained engaged with the 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 General 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 US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia.
“We think this 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,” Pentagon spokesperson reiterated, laying emphasis on the importance of the F-16 deal.
Analysts believe the proposed sale will improve Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats. PAF currently operates 76 F-16 fighters. The latest sale, if it goes through, will boost the fleet to 84 aircraft.