WASHINGTON – The United States’ Defence Department said on Tuesday the F-16’s sale to Pakistan should not be of concern to India and the deal took into account the regional security situation.
India has expressed that its disappointment at the decision by the Obama Administration to sell F-16 aircraft to help Pakistan in its counter-terrorism operations. Pakistan has expressed its surprise over the Indian reaction to the proposed deal. Asked at a briefing about India’s reaction to the US decision to sell aircraft to Pakistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Petro Cook said that the United States look at relationship with Pakistan and that with India as a separate relationship.
“We think this is important capabilities for the Pakistan to go after terrorists, the spokesman said 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 cause concern for India.”
The decision by the US State Department to sell additional F-16 aircraft to Pakistan and a subsequent notification to Congress by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) – which broker 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 this security assistance to Pakistan in a written testimony to the Congress on Dec 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 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 the US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia.
Pentagon spokesman again reiterated the point at the briefing about the importance of the F-16 deal. “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,” he said. Pakistan is one of the older users of F-16s and has received these jet fighters from the United States periodically over the past 30 years.
The F-16’s have been used in counter-terrorism operations which started in 2004 in support of Pak Army in FATA which were meant to support Operation Enduring Freedom.