WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has indicated that nothing more can be done to provide F-16s to Pakistan at a subsidised rate since Congress controls the purse strings, while reiterating that Islamabad can buy the fighter jets with its own funds.Asked by a Pakistani television correspondent whether President Barack Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry could use their executive powers to overcome Congressional objections so that the funds for the aircraft were released, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said that in the US system of checks and balances, “Congress does control the purse strings.”
“We have argued or made the case to Congress why we believe that the purchase of these F-16s is in our national interest. We’ll continue to make that case. In the meantime, we’ve offered Pakistan an opportunity to purchase these (fighters) out of their own funds,” he added.At the same time, the administration made it clear that it was not using the Congressional objections as an excuse to deny Pakistan eight F-16s at a subsidised rate, the Obama administration has said.
“No, that’s not true,” Toner told reporters at his daily news conference when the same correspondent asked if it is just using Congress as an excuse not to give F-16s to Pakistan.“We have made the case for FMF (Foreign Military Finance) funds to be used (towards sale of F-16s to Pakistan),” Toner said.The Administration, he said, has made the case to the Congress that it continues to support proposed sale of these eight F-16s to Pakistan to assist in Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency operations.
“We believe that these F-16s have supported these kinds of operations to date. We think that they reduce the ability of certain militant groups to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism and a base of support for the insurgency in Afghanistan,” he said.
“But key members of Congress have made it clear that they object to using Foreign Military Financing funds to support this sale. Given these objections, we’ve told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for the purchase,” he said.
Replying to another question, Toner said that it wants increased dialogue between India and Pakistan on counter terrorism co-operation.“We have said many times that there is a level of counterterrorism cooperation between India and Pakistan. There is some dialogue there,” he said.“We want to see that kind of discussion or dialogue augmented or increased,” he added.
“This is something that’s in both Pakistan and India’s interest to pursue a closer counterterrorism cooperation for the region. It’s good for the region,” Toner said in response to a question.