Washington: The US defended Tuesday its decision to approve a USD 450 million F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment programme to Pakistan. The US said it is ‘our obligation’ to provide military equipment to ensure that the planes are maintained and sustained to bolster Islamabad’s capability to deal with ‘clear’ terrorist threats.
Early this month, the Biden administration reversed 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, and approved the F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment programme to Pakistan.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is on a visit to the US, has questioned the rationale behind Washington’s USD 450 million F-16 security assistance to Pakistan.
“This is a sustained program for F-16s that Pakistan has long had. These are not new, this is sustaining what they have. We’ve a responsibility and obligation to whomever we provide military equipment to, that it’s maintained and sustained. That’s our obligation,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in response to questions on the issue.
Blinken was speaking at a joint press appearance with Jaishankar. He said that Pakistan’s programme bolsters its capability to deal with terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan or from the region. “It’s in no one’s interest that those threats are able to go forward with impunity,” Blinken asserted.
“There are clear terrorism threats that continue to emanate from Pakistan itself, as well as from neighbouring countries and whether it is TTP that may be targeting Pakistan, whether it’s IS or whether it’s al-Qaeda. I think the threats are clear, well known and we all have an interest in making sure that we have the means to deal with them. And that’s what this is about,” Blinken added.
Blinken also said that the US always encourages its friends to resolve their differences, through diplomacy, through dialogue. “That hasn’t changed, it won’t change,” Blinken said, a day after holding talks with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been strained over the Kashmir issue and cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
The ties between the two countries nosedived after India abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the State into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.