US stokes arms race with planned sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan

13 February 2016

Washington is back at its old game of fostering an arms race in Southeast Asia through weapon sales to Pakistan and thereby creating the need for more and superior arms in rival India so as to sustain a demand for its arms factories.

The US government on Friday announced plans to sell to Pakistan up to eight F-16 fighter jets, built by Lockheed Martin Corp, along with radar and other equipment in a deal valued at $699 million.

India has disapproved the sale of advanced fighter jets to Pakistan which is still in the grip of terrorists and said it was disappointed with the US decision. "We disagree with their rationale that such arms transfers help to combat terrorism," Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs, said on Twitter.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar is expected to summon US ambassador Richard Verma to convey India's ''displeasure.''

The Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency said the F-16s would allow Pakistan's Air Force to operate in all-weather environments and at night, while improving its self-defense capability and bolstering its ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.

The agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, said it had notified lawmakers about the possible deal.

Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, although such action is rare since deals are well-vetted before any formal notification.
Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker notified the Obama administration that he would not approve using US funds to pay for the planes through the foreign military financing (FMF) programme. That means Pakistan must fund the purchase itself, instead of relying on US funds to cover about 46 per cent of the cost.

Pakistan would still be able to buy four of the F-16 Block 52 models, and the associated radar and electronic warfare equipment, said one US source familiar with the situation. The US government may also find a way to circumvent the funds dilemma.

In a letter to secretary of state John Kerry Corker also pointed to Pakistan's ties with the Haqqani network, a militant group that is behind attacks in Afghanistan.

"I may reconsider my blanket hold on US FMF assistance should the Pakistanis make progress on addressing my significant concerns about their support for the Haqqani network, but for now, if they wish to purchase this military equipment, they will do so without a subsidy from the American taxpayer," he wrote.

The US argument is that F-16s are the right platform to support Pakistan's counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, as ''These operations reduce the ability of militants to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven for terrorism and a base of support for the insurgency in Afghanistan, which is in the national interests of both Pakistan and the United States, and in the interest of the region more broadly," US official say.

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