The US has said that its decision to provide a USD 450 million sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet is not designed as a message to India rather it is associated with America’s defense partnership with Islamabad which is primarily focused on counterterrorism and nuclear security.
On September 8, the Biden administration approved a USD 450 million F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment program to Pakistan, reversing the decision of the previous Trump administration to suspend military aid to Islamabad for providing safe havens for the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. India has conveyed to the US its concerns over Washington’s decision to provide a sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jet fleet.
In a notification to the US Congress, the State Department made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale for sustainment and related equipment for an estimated cost of USD 450 million, arguing that this will sustain Islamabad’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet.
Responding to a question, Dr Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, on Thursday said that the recent US action with Pakistan on F-16 is not designed as a message to India as it relates to its relationship with Russia . “The decision inside the US government around the F-16 issue was made predicated on US interests associated with our defense partnership with Pakistan which is primarily focused on counterterrorism and nuclear security and as the (Defence) Secretary Lloyd Austin made clear to (Defence) Minister Rajnath Singh during their call last week, this case did not include any upgrades or munitions,” he told a group of reporters on Thursday and think-tank experts during a virtual round table.
On September 14, Singh conveyed to US Defense Secretary Austin, India’s concerns over Washington’s decision to provide a sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jet fleet. “We have been engaging with our Indian counterparts, both in advance of the announcement to preview it and during my visit with Assistant Secretary (Donald) Lu in Delhi as well.
So we thought it was quite important to be as transparent as we could with Indian counterparts both in advance and during that decision and it provided a good opportunity to have a healthy exchange on both the US rationale for its limited security partnership with Pakistan as well as a good opportunity to hear India’s concerns about that,” Ratner said.