India expressed disappointment on Saturday over the Obama administration’s proposal to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, saying it disagreed that such arms transfers would help combat terrorism.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned US ambassador Richard Verma to convey India’s “displeasure”. “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 external affairs ministry said in a statement.
The Pentagon’s defense security cooperation agency said it had notified lawmakers about the possible sale on Thursday. It said the sale would improve Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats.
However, the Obama administration’s proposal to sell the F-16 jets to Pakistan is unlikely to sail smoothly through the US Congress with both Republican and Democrat lawmakers raising concerns over the South Asian country acting as a safe haven for terrorist groups targeting India and Afghanistan.
In the past few days, influential lawmakers have sent a flurry of letters to US president Barack Obama and secretary of state John Kerry expressing opposition to the decision to sell F-16s to Pakistan. They have told the White House and the state department that they will work to ensure that Pakistan does not get these fighter jets until terrorist safe havens exist there and state actors support terror groups.
The lawmakers also voiced concern over the potential of the Pakistani military to use the F-16s to deliver nuclear weapons in a conflict scenario with India.
“While it is my intention at this time to clear the sale of eight F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, I do not plan to support the expenditure of the very limited foreign military financing account to finance this deal, now or in the future,” senator Bob Corker, chairman of the powerful senate committee on foreign relations, said in a letter to Kerry on February 9.
The state department on Friday notified the Congress of its determination to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan. The Congress has 30 days’ time to act on the proposal.
In case of any objection, the process will be lengthier and complicated as the proposed sale will be debated and voted in the Congress. Normally this kind of situation does not arise as in case of opposition to major arms deals, Congressional leaders and the administration work mutually to arrive at a consensus.
“The administration’s proposed sale of eight new F-16 combat aircraft to Pakistan raises substantial concerns,” Congressman Matt Salmon, chairman of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Obama in a letter dated February 10.
In a joint letter to Kerry, influential lawmakers Ted Poe from the Republican party and Tulsi Gabbard from the Democratic party voices their concern. “Given that the United States has already supplied Pakistan with over $30 billion in foreign assistance from FY2002-FY2016 and Pakistan still has not changed its behaviour in any significant way, it is unconvincing that giving Pakistan more taxpayer dollars to finance the purchase of F-16s will somehow break that trend,” they wrote.
“Pakistan has the ability to become an integral partner in the international community and be part of the solution on ending terrorism and the instability that plagues the region. Until that time comes, however, we urge you not to use taxpayer money to finance the sale of F-16s to Pakistan,” Poe and Gabbard wrote.
“On February 3, Hafiz Saeed, one of the masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks in which six US citizens were killed, called for additional attacks against India. Despite being designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, a $10 million bounty on his head by the US government and pleas from India to rein in Saeed, he remains free,” they wrote.