Giving in to unrelenting pressure from US lawmakers of both parties, the Obama administration has decided not to subsidise the sale of eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.
The sale can still go through if Pakistan is willing to pay for them, and fully, which, according to the administration is $699.04 million, in an outright commercial deal. A proposed subsidy of 42% was blocked by lawmakers in both the senate and the House of Representatives, who put a hold on it, leaving the administration with few realistic choices.
Confirming the development, first reported by BBC, an official said, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to media, that the deal was nearly dead. A response from the state department, officially confirming or denying the decision, along with other details, was expected but had not come till the filing of this report.
There was no response from the Pakistani embassy in Washington to a question if Islamabad would press ahead with the sale and was ready to pay for them fully. It has once before.
India will be relieved as it had protested very strongly the US decision to sell these jets to Pakistan, arguing it did not agree they will be used only to combat terrorism as claimed.
Islamabad had sought these aircraft in 2015 to help it fight terrorists better. The Obama administration agreed, around Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit in October.
But congressional approval was needed, and lawmakers quickly let it be known that they wouldn’t support it, citing “duplicitous” Pakistan’s checkered record on combating terrorism. However, the administration pressed ahead with it, and notified congress of the sale in February. And a senior Republican senator announced his intention to block it instantaneously.
The senator, Bob Corker, chairman of the chamber’s powerful foreign affairs committee, wrote to secretary of state John Kerry, saying he was putting a hold on the financing of the sale.
“I do not want US taxpayer dollars going to support these acquisitions,” Corker told The Wall Street Journal, referring to the administration’s proposal to subsidise the sale.