Notwithstanding India’s strong protest, the Obama Administration today justified its move to sell eight F-16 fighters to Pakistan claiming that these jets were “critical” to the country’s counter-terrorism operations.
“We support the proposed sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan to assist Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. Pakistan’s current F-16s have proven critical to the success of these operations to date,” a State Department official told PTI.
He was responding when referred to the strong objection expressed by India which said it “disagrees” with the rationale presented by the Obama administration.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned US Ambassador to India Richard Verma in New Delhi to convey India’s “disappointment” over the US decision.
“We are disappointed at the decision of the Obama administration to notify the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan. We disagree with their rationale that such arms transfers help to combat terrorism. The record of the last many years in this regard speaks for itself,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
On February 11, the US State Department notified the Congress of its decision to sell eight F-16 to Pakistan worth about USD 700 million. Now all eyes are on the US Congress where there is stiff opposition to giving such military hardware to Pakistan.
Senator Bob Corker, who is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already vowed to block the sale to the country that is acting as a “duplicitous partner” and providing safe havens to terror groups.
“F-16s are the right platform to support Pakistan’s counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency operations, and have proven critical to the success of their past operations against militant groups,” the State Department official said, while speaking on condition of anonymity.
“These operations reduce the ability of militants to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism and a base of support for the insurgency in Afghanistan. These operations are in the national interests of Pakistan, the United States, NATO, and in the interest of the region more broadly,” the official said.
“As always, we are committed to working with Congress to deliver security assistance to our partners and allies that furthers US foreign policy interests by building capacity to meet shared security challenges,” the official said.
The Obama administration’s decision comes at a time when India is engaged in prodding Pakistan to take action against perpetrators of the Pathankot terror attack as well as 26/11 attacks in the wake of revelations made by Pakistani-American convict David Coleman Headley during his testimony before a Mumbai court via video link from the US.
In his testimony, Headley has stated that terror groups like LeT, JeM get financial, military support from Pakistan’s spy agency ISI.