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.
Aziz’s remarks came after the US on Monday confirmed media reports that it will not subsidise the proposed sale of eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Pakistan can still buy them but by paying fully the amount of nearly $700 million.
The Obama administration has officially, and publicly, said it endorses Pakistani claim that these aircraft will be used to fight terrorists, but many lawmakers seriously doubt it.
At a recent compressional hearing Matt Salmon, a Republican congressman, raised questions about F-16s, saying they “could ultimately be used against India or other regional powers”.
“We have told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for that purpose,” state department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a news briefing on Monday.
Kirby said objections from lawmakers was the main reason: “So while Congress has approved the sale, key members have made it clear that they object to using FMF to support it.”
FMF, which stands for Foreign Military Funding, is a crucial US foreign policy tool used to extend aid to friendly nations to secure their friendship. The F-16 deal was supposed to be one.
The deal killer came in the form of a procedural block — called a “hold” — from the Republican chairman of the powerful senate foreign affairs committee Bob Corker.
He told The Wall Street Journal in an interview, “I do not want US taxpayer dollars going to support these acquisitions”. He went on to call Pakistan, an ally, “duplicitous”.
Pakistan to maintain minimum nuclear deterrence: Aziz
Pakistan would maintain minimum nuclear deterrence for balancing the strategic stability in South Asia, Aziz said.
Addressing a seminar, he said South Asia’s strategic stability has been negatively impacted by policies that override the long-established principles and norms and are guided by individual states’ strategic and commercial considerations. “A case in point is the Indo-US civil nuclear deal and the subsequent discriminatory waiver granted to India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Eight years down the road one wonders what benefit the non-proliferation regime has secured from the deal?” he asked.