External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar lashed out at the US for its decision to provide Pakistan with a $450 million package for what the Pentagon has called the “F-16 case for sustainment and related equipment”.
This is the first American military assistance package to Pakistan after the Trump Administration ended defence and security co-operation with the country in 2018 after accusing it of giving only “lies and deceit” for the billions of dollars that the US had “foolishly” given it.
India is not too pleased with the United States’ recent decision to provide a massive $450 million F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment programme to Pakistan.
The Biden administration approved the F-16 sustainment programme for Pakistan, reversing the decision of the previous Trump administration.
The US defended its decision by saying that the package was to fight terrorism.
What is the F-16 sustenance package?
The $450 million package comprises technical and logistics services for follow-on support of Pakistan’s F-16 fleet.
There is participation in electronic combat international security assistance programme, international engine management programme, engine component improvement programme, aircraft and engine hardware and software modifications and support and aircraft and engine spare repair/return parts.
The package will help Pakistan upgrade its existing fleet of F-16 fighter jets.
Why is the US providing military assistance to Pakistan?
According to the US, the package would help Islamabad sustain its capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet.
Pakistan’s F-16 programme is an important part of the broader United States-Pakistan bilateral relationship.
As per US Congressional notification, the proposed sale does not include any new capabilities, weapons, or munitions. It will not “alter the basic military balance in the region”.
What is India’s concern?
India’s concern around the F-16s and Pakistan is not a new occurrence.
Rather, India has been concerned about this since the first time the US gave Pakistan F-16s, a reward for their assistance in the First Afghan War, where the US supplied Pakistan with money and weapons, in a successful attempt to fight the Soviet Army with jihadis.
However, the end of the war and the Soviet Union’s departure from Afghanistan led to the US reworking its relationship with Pakistan.
Aimed against Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, 'The Pressler Amendment' froze it out of military assurance. In layman’s terms, no more F-16s.
However, a decade later, the Bush Administration did not only approve the release of the blocked F-16s, but also allowed the sale of new F-16s, along with a refurbishment package.
During India and Pakistan’s last aerial skirmish in 2019, Pakistan brought down a MiG-21 flown by the Indian Air Force’s Abhinandan Varthaman. The move acted as a show of strength for the F-16, cementing Pakistan’s intentions to use the aircraft in all future operations.
However, from another point of view, the package could also be a signal from the States to both Islamabad and New Delhi to break the long impasse in their relations.