Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expected visit to Washington in June, the Obama administration made a major announcement that the US would not be financing the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. India had expressed its displeasure earlier over the US’ decision to sell the fighter jets to Pakistan.
The significant turnaround by the Obama administration, aligning itself with the popular view expressed in the US Congress against giving aid to finance the deal signifies a change in its attitude towards Pakistan.
“While Congress has approved the sale, key members have made clear that they object to using Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to support it. Given congressional objections, we have told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for that purpose”, US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said.
The US had initially planned to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan and finance most of the $699 million deal through FMF. However, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Republican Bob Corker and Democratic Ranking Member Ben Cardin made an announcement that they would not approve FMF for Pakistan until it demonstrated “behavioral changes” in its support of terrorism and dealings with India.
India had protested the US decision to give these fighter planes to Pakistan, and the issue was also taken up during Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s recent meetings with US officials during his visit to Washington. Expressing concerns about the deal, India had said that these fighters could be used to threaten India, a concern that many US lawmakers also shared. The US lawmakers even raised this point during a hearing on April 27. Mr Modi will mostly be addressing a joint session of Congress on June 8.
The US decision to go back on the F 16 deal also comes in the backdrop of the growing cooperation in defence and security between India and US. Announcing the decision, Mr Kirby said: “Effective engagement with Pakistan, we believe, is critical to promoting the consolidation of democratic institutions and economic stability, and supporting the government’s counter-terrorism activities and capabilities. As a matter of longstanding principle, the Department of State opposes conditions to the release of appropriated foreign assistance funds.”
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