WASHINGTON    -   Antony Blinken, America’s top diplomat, stout­ly defended the sale of F-16 aircraft maintenance package to Pakistan, as India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who had sharply criti­cised the Biden administration’s move a day ear­lier, listened silently while his US counterpart jus­tified the deal saying it was aimed at bolstering the country’s capacity to fight terrorism.

Standing next to Jaishankar at a press confer­ence following their bilateral talks on Tuesday, Secretary of State Blinken was pointedly asked by Indian journalists whether the sale was justified as, they alleged, Pakistan had used F-16 aircraft against India. “To be very clear, this is a sustain­ment programme that Pakistan long had. These are not new planes, new systems, new weapons. It’s sustaining what they have. We have a responsibili­ty and an obligation to whomever we provide mil­itary equipment to make sure that it’s maintained and sustained,” Blinken said. On Sunday, Jaishan­kar had said that the US argument that the $450 million F-16 fighter jets maintenance package to Pakistan for counter-terrorism was not fooling anybody. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhu­tto Zardari met Secretary Blinken on Monday, dis­cussing a range of problems mainly flood related.