US aid to Pak for F-16 fleet; India expresses concern
India on Wednesday conveyed its “concern” over the US decision to provide F-16 Fighter Jets to Pakistan during a telephonic conversation between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. This is the first high-level objection registered by India against the US on supplying F-16 Jets to Pakistan. “I conveyed India’s concern at the recent US decision to provide a sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet. Look forward to continuing dialogue with Secretary Austin to further consolidate India-US partnership,” said Singh. He tweeted after talks:
I conveyed India’s concern at the recent US decision to provide sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet.
Look forward to continuing dialogue with Seceratry Austin to further consolidating India-US partnership. 3/3
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) September 14, 2022
The two Ministers also reviewed the bilateral defence and strategic ties between the two countries. Last week, India’s Ministry of External Affairs reportedly expressed its concern during a meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu. He was here to take part in the QUAD Senior Officials Meeting (SOM).
India had then raised objection to the U.S. plan for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) worth $450 million for hardware, software, and spares for the F-16 fighter jet programme with Pakistan. India stressed the technology and support provided to Pakistan for the F-16s, which Pakistan claims are needed for “counter-terrorism operations”, and are used for operations against India. Pakistan will get new and in total upgradation of its total 85 F-16 fighter jets from the US through this deal.
Donald Lu reportedly said the F-16 package was a maintenance deal for F-16s, some of which are 40 years old and part of the U.S.’s global policy of maintaining its defence sales for their entire lifecycle. In an interview with a private television channel, he also said “We heard several concerns from the Indian government” and clarified “Let me say this very clearly, this is a safety and maintenance program. There is no new aircraft being considered, no new capability, and no new weapons system.”
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry statement on the talks said Rajnath Singh conveyed India’s concerns over the US decision to provide a sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet. The statement said the two leaders had a warm and fruitful telephonic conversation. They reviewed the multi-faceted India-US defence cooperation and reiterated mutual commitment to further strengthen military-to-military ties.
Austin expressed support for India’s defence modernization programme and looked forward to further strengthening India-US defence industrial and technology collaboration. The two Ministers also discussed regional issues and affirmed their shared desire for maintaining peace and stability in the region and beyond.
The two Ministers reiterated that both sides would continue their productive engagements with the objective of deepening the India-US Strategic Partnership. Rajnath conveyed that he looked forward to welcoming Secretary Austin to India for the next Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue in 2023.
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