WASHINGTON: Amid opposition from India and American lawmakers against the sale of F-16s to Pakistan, US?Secretary of State John Kerry strongly defended the Obama administration’s decision on Friday, arguing that these fighter jets are a “critical” part of Pakistan’s fight against terrorists.“The F-16s have been a critical part of the Pakistani fight against terrorists in the western part of that country, and have been effective in that fight. And Pakistan has lost some 50,000 people in the last years, including troops, to the terrorists that are threatening Pakistan itself,” Kerry told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.“So it’s always complicated. We try to be sensitive to the balance, obviously, with respect to India. But we think the F-16s are an important part of Pakistan’s ability to do that,”American Congressman Ami Bera joined other lawmakers to express concern over the proposed sale of F-16s to Pakistan.Kerry said the US had been really working hard building the relationship and “trying to advance even the rapprochement” between India and Pakistan. “We encourage that. I think it’s required courage by both leaders to engage in the dialogue that they’ve engaged in,” he said.
“And needless to say, we don’t want to do things that upset the balance. But we do believe that Pakistan is engaged legitimately in a very tough fight against identifiable terrorists in their country,” the top American diplomat argued.“They have got about 150,000 to 180,000 troops out in the western part of their country. They’ve been engaged in North Waziristan in a long struggle to clear the area and move people out. They have made some progress in that. Is it enough in our judgment? No,” he said.“We think that more could be done. We’re particularly concerned about the sanctuary components of Pakistan, and we’re particularly concerned about some individual entities in Pakistan that have been supportive of relationships with some of the people that we consider extremely dangerous to our interests in Afghanistan elsewhere — Haqqani Network, a prime example of that,” Kerry said.
India has opposed the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, saying it disagrees with Washington’s rationale that such arms transfers help to combat terrorism.Congressman Eliott Engel, Ranking Member of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “I’m concerned that Pakistan continues to play a double game, fighting terrorism that has a direct impact inside Pakistan, and supporting it in places like India and Afghanistan, where Pakistan believes such a policy furthers its national interests.”