In what is possibly the biggest jolt to Pakistan, the deal for the eight F-16s from the US appears to have fallen through.
A report published in Pakistan’s leading newspaper Dawn says that to finalise the deal, Islamabad was required to provide a Letter of Acceptance for purchase of the jets by May 24.
The report quotes diplomatic sources saying that Pakistan never issued the document and the offer expired.
A Pakistan Air Force F-16 at a air force base hangar. KeyPublishing
What was the problem?
The United States had agreed to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan but on the condition that the money would have to be financed by Islamabad. The $699 million F-16 fighter jet deal was to be finalized partially through the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme. The US Congress raised questions on Pakistan’s sincerity to tackle terrorism and refused to subsidise the sale.
A subsidy meant that Pakistan would have paid just $270 million for the jets. The US administration, however, asked Islamabad to pay the amount in full.
This led to a schism between Washington and Islamabad. One prime concern of the US Congress was that the F-16s would be used in fighting India, with which US is on the verge of building a strategic and diplomatic tie far more stronger than it has ever had with Pakistan. It is too early to read into the consequences of the deal falling through. As Pakistani Ambassador to US Jalil Abbas Jilani, “a dead-end has not been reached as yet”.
Yet Pakistan might not be too worried over the loss given their very strong bond with China and increasingly strengthening bond with Russia – both US rivals.