US defends Pak F-16 sustainment sale

Wajid Ali Syed
Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022

WASHINGTON: Defending the sale of F-16 sustainment and related equipment, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Tuesday reiterated that the program will bolster Pakistan’s capability to counter terrorism emanating in the region.

“Pakistan’s program bolsters its capability to deal with the terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan or from the region. It’s in no one’s interest that those threats be able to go forward with impunity,” he said during a joint presser with his Indian counterpart.

He said the capability that Pakistan had could “benefit all of us in dealing with terrorism.” “To be very clear, and it’s important, this is a sustainment program for F-16s that Pakistan has long had,” the secretary said, emphasizing that the US had a responsibility and obligation to whomever it provides military equipment to make sure that it’s maintained and sustained.

Responding to another related question, the secretary reiterated that the program was sustainment and maintenance related but the deal did not include new planes, new systems, or new weapons.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration approved the possible sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan for a cost of $450 million. The deal falls under the Foreign Military Sales program that was suspended by President Trump in early 2018.

India has had a strong reaction to the reversal of Trump era decision, and has repeatedly accused Pakistan of misusing the F-16s. The Indian foreign minister, who’s also on a visit to Washington, reportedly said the US was not fooling anybody by saying that the sale was a maintenance program to fight terrorism.

The State Department clarified on Monday as well that India and Pakistan both were partners of the US with different points of emphasis. “We don’t view our relationship with Pakistan, and on the other hand, we don’t view our relationship with India as in relation to one another,” the State Department spokesperson said, adding, “We look to both as partners, because we do have in many cases shared values. We do have in many cases shared interests. And the relationship we have with India stands on its own. The relationship we have with Pakistan stands on its own.”