ISLAMABAD: Pakistan conveyed its concerns to the United States on Monday over the recent move by the US Congress to stop President Barack Obama’s administration from subsidising the sale of F-16 fighter jets to one of its key allies in the fight against terrorism.
The issue was taken up by Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Muhammad Alam Khattak with US Central Command (Centcom) Commander Gen Joseph L Votel in a meeting in Rawalpindi. Gen Votel also separately called on army chief General Raheel Sharif at the GHQ.
Delay in F-16s sale: Defence secretary expresses concern with US commander
Votel is a four-star general who has recently assumed the command of Centcom. He has commanded the US Special Operations Command.
A statement issued by the defence ministry confirmed Defence Secretary Khattak expressed concerns at the delay in the sale of state-of-the-art jets to Pakistan. He told the American general that acquisition of the F-16s was ‘essential’ for Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.
The F-16s sale deal ran into trouble after a subcommittee of the US Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs stopped the State Department to pay $430 million in subsidy through foreign military financing budget for the aircraft. Previously, Islamabad was supposed to pay only $270 million to acquire eight F-16s.
The US Congress committee blocked the deal because, according to congressmen, Pakistan was not doing enough to fight militants, and expressed concerns that the jets could be used against India while also raising objections to using American taxpayers’ money to fund the sale.
Frustrated by the move, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said last week that Pakistan could get fighter jets from somewhere else if the required funding for the F-16s was not arranged. The development highlights the fragile nature of relationship often plagued by suspicion and trust deficit between the two countries. However, the defence ministry said both Pakistan and the US shared the resolve to enhance existing defence cooperation. The Centcom chief, according to the statement, acknowledged the role played by Pakistan’s armed forces in their fight against terrorism.
He added that continued support from the US in training, equipment and necessary funding will act as a tool essential to fighting terrorist outfits. “Pakistan highly values its relationship with the US which is spread over six decades and has seen progress in various areas, including trade, economy, investment, energy, defence and people to people contact. It was discussed in the meeting that there is a need of further enhancement and diversification of defence relations by transcending from present confines of counter terrorism to the realm of conventional defence,” said the defence secretary.
US senator does not expect Pakistan F-16 sale to be blocked
Lt Gen (retd) Khattak also enquired about the status of a roadmap regarding future reimbursement mechanism in lieu of the Coalition Support Fund beyond 2016.
Meanwhile, during meeting between the army chief and top US commander, matters of mutual and professional interests with special emphasis on the security situation in Afghanistan came under discussion.
“The visiting dignitary lauded the role of Pakistan Army for bringing peace and stability in the region,” said a statement issued by the ISPR.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2016.
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