US F-16 deal with Pakistan: What the controversy is & why India has raised objections

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New Delhi | Updated: May 3, 2016 3:44:23 PM

The Obama administration has asked Pakistan to "put forward" its "national funds" to buy the F-16 fighter jets as some top American Senators have put a hold on use of the US tax payers' money for this purpose.

F-16Interestingly, Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-16 has offered to manufacture the fighter jet under the ‘Make in India’ programme. (Reuters photo)

US’ decision to sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan has been a subject of controversy for some time now, especially with India having raised strong objections on the deal in the past. Now, with US Congressmen also expressing concerns that the eight F-16 fighter aircraft may be used against India and not to combat terrorism, America has decided to ask Pakistan to make full payment for the jets.

The Obama administration has asked Pakistan to “put forward” its “national funds” to buy the F-16 fighter jets as some top American Senators have put a hold on use of the US tax payers’ money for this purpose.

“While Congress has approved the sale, key members have made clear that they object to using FMF (foreign military financing) to support it. Given Congressional objections, we have told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for that purpose,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said. Kirby, however, did not say when this decision was taken and when was it communicated to Pakistan.

On it’s part, Pakistan has warned the US that it will acquire F-16 fighter jets from elsewhere if America does not arrange funding for the sale. Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs has cautioned the US as both countries lock horns over the purchase of the multirole warplanes.

Aziz said Pakistan valued the F-16s for their effectiveness, but said that they could be replaced by JF-17 Thunder jets in its anti-terrorism campaign, Dawn reported.

The JF-17 Thunder fighter jet has been jointly developed by China’s Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) and its Pakistani partner, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC).

Interestingly, Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-16 has offered to manufacture the fighter jet under the ‘Make in India’ programme. “We are ready to manufacture F-16 in India and support the Make in India initiative,” Phil Shaw, chief executive of Lockheed Martin India Private Ltd has said in the past.

The making of F-16, which will be among the largest projects under the Make in India initiative, will be conditional to the Indian government making contractual commitment to buy the fighter jets for its armed forces.

On February 11, the US State Department had informed the Congress about its determination for selling eight the fighter jets to Pakistan at an estimated cost of $700 million.

The move was opposed by the Indian government as it summoned the US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, to lodge its protest. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned Verma and told him about India’s concerns over US military aid to Pakistan which India believes goes into anti-India activities.

External Affairs Ministry has also issued a strong statement expressing its “disappointment” over the US decision. It said it disagrees with the rationale that these arms transfer to Pakistan will help in combating terrorism.

 


Top American lawmakers led by Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put a hold on the sale arguing that it would not let the Obama administration use tax payers’ money for sale of the fighter jets to Pakistan given that Islamabad was not taking enough action against terrorist organisations, in particular the Haqqani network, and there was continued existence of terrorist safe havens inside its territory. Several Indian American organisations reached out to lawmakers expressing their concern over such a sale, which they argued is nothing but rewarding a bad actor.

However, both the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Pakistan government insist that F-16 is an important tool in the fight against terrorism and urged the Congress to remove the hold. The lawmakers stood their ground and told the Obama administration that it will not till the time Pakistan takes tangible action against the Haqqani network.

On the occasion of fifth anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader at a safe hideout in Abbottabad on the outskirts of a Pakistan Army garrison town, by American commandos, the US publicly announced that it has asked Pakistan to use its national resources to buy F-16.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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