Pakistan said on Tuesday it will acquire combat jets from other countries if the US does not subsidise a deal for eight F-16s, giving a new twist to the controversy over the deal that has run into opposition from American lawmakers.
“If funding is arranged, Pakistan will get the F-16s, otherwise we will opt for jets from some other place,” said Sartaj Aziz, the adviser on foreign affairs to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He did not specify which other jets were being considered by Pakistan.
According to an earlier understanding with the US, Pakistan was required to pay $270m the eight F-16s, while Washington was to provide the rest from its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme, the Dawn reported.
On Monday, the US confirmed reports that it will not subsidise the proposed deal. It said Pakistan can buy the jets by paying their full price of nearly $700 million. Pakistan had sought the F-16s for operations against terrorists but US lawmakers expressed concerns that they could be used against India.
“We have told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for that purpose,” state department spokesman John Kirby said at a news briefing.
The Dawn reported that the US announcement “practically kills the deal as Pakistan may find it difficult to buy the planes at two-and-a-half times more than the agreed price”.
Aziz said Pakistan valued the F-16s for their effectiveness but they could be replaced by the JF-17 Thunder jets, which were developed jointly with China, in the anti-terror campaign.
He expressed concern at “India’s growing military power” and said if it isn’t checked, Pakistan will be “forced to increase its strategic power”. He added, “The international community should avoid steps which may disturb the strategic balance in South Asia.”