India has registered a strong protest with the US after it approved a USD 450 million sustainable package for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jet fleet. New Delhi has delivered a sharp rebuke to US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs Donald Lu on the substance and timing of the decision.
The Biden administration approved a USD 450 million F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment programme to Pakistan to help it meet current and future counterterrorism threats, in Washington’s first major security assistance to Islamabad in four years.
In 2018, Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had suspended about USD 2 billion in security aid to Islamabad for failing to clamp down on the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network terror groups and dismantle their safe havens in the country.
In a notification to the US Congress on Wednesday, the State Department said it has approved a possible foreign military sale of F-16 case for sustainment and related equipment for an estimated cost of USD 450 million, arguing that this will sustain Islamabad’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet. The Defence Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying the Congress of this possible sale on Wednesday.
The approval for the package comes as India was hosting top US officials including Donald Lu for a US India 2+2 Intersessional Meeting and Maritime Security Dialogue. The dialogue took place between the two countries on September 7 and maritime talks the next day.
The United States Government has notified Congress of a proposed Foreign Military Sales case to sustain the Pakistan Air Force’s F-16 programme. Pakistan is an important counterterrorism partner, and as part of longstanding policy, the United States provides life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms, a State Department spokesperson said. Pakistan’s F-16 programme is an important part of the broader United States-Pakistan bilateral relationship.
The proposed sale will sustain Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet. The F-16 fleet allows Pakistan to support counterterrorism operations and we expect Pakistan to take sustained action against all terrorist groups, the spokesperson said.
According to the Congressional notification, the proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions. It said that Pakistan has requested to consolidate prior F-16 sustainment and support cases to support the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet by reducing duplicate case activities and adding additional continued support elements.