The Pentagon on Tuesday said India should not be concerned about the planned sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan as the deal took into account the security situation in the region.
“This sale always took into account the regional security situation,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said at a news briefing when asked if New Delhi’s concerns were justified.
“We look at our relationship with Pakistan and our relationship with India as separate relationships. And we think this [sale] provides important capabilities to the Pakistanis to go after terrorists in their country,” he told reporters.
“We think this is a capability that will help Pakistan in its counterterrorism effort, and we think that is in the national security interests of the United States,” Cook said. “As a result, we don’t think it should cause concern for India,” he added.
The Pentagon last week notified the US Congress that it would be subsidising a $699 million deal to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan, along with radars and other military equipment. According to reports, the US government will foot around 46% of the cost of the deal.
Washington’s move was met with dismay in New Delhi and the Indian government summoned the US ambassador to record its ‘disappointment and displeasure’ over the planned sale.
In a statement on Twitter, India’s external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said New Delhi “disagrees with Washington’s rationale that such arms transfers help combat terrorism”.
India’s reaction prompted Pakistan to voice its own disappointment. “We are surprised and disappointed at the Indian government’s reaction. Their army and arsenal is much larger and they are the largest importer of defence equipment in the world,” Foreign Office spokesman Nafeez Zakria said.
While the decision to sell Pakistan the F-16 jets has met some opposition in the US Congress, a US government official last week pointed out that the “concerns were raised in regard to financing the sale, not the transfer itself”.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2016.