US defends Pakistan’s F-16 programme despite Indian objections

WASHINGTON    -    The United States’ proposed $450-million sale for Pakistan to refurbish its F-16 fighters fleet will sustain the South Asian country’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats, a State Department spokesperson has said.

 “This is a fleet that allows Pakistan to support counterterrorism operations, and we expect Pakistan will take sustained action against all terrorist groups,” Spokesman Ned Price said in response to a question from the correspondent of a private TV channel.

“We did recently notify Congress of a proposed foreign military sale valued at USD 450 million for maintenance and sustainment services for the Pakistani Air Force’s F-16 programme,” Price told reporters at his daily news conference on Tuesday.

“Pakistan is an important partner in a number of regards, an important counterterrorism partner. And as part of our longstanding policy, we provide lifecycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms,” he said.

“Pakistan’s F-16 programme is an important part of a broader US-Pakistan bilateral relationship, and this proposed sale will sustain Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining the F-16 fleet,” Price said.

Interestingly, the Biden administration ignored the ‘strong objections’ raised by India over the proposed foreign military sale of $450 million to Pakistan to sustain the Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 programme and notified Congress in this regard. 

Last week, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivered the required certification of this possible sale, angering India who raised the matter during meetings with US official Donald Lu in New Delhi, according to a report by The Hindu.

The publication stated that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs ‘protested’ against the sale of spares of the jet to Pakistan despite the DSCA’s clarification that “the proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions” and it “will not alter the basic military balance in the region”. 

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