It was earlier said that Sri Lanka will sign a deal to buy JF-17 Thunder aircraft from Pakistan, but it has now emerged that the deal has been called off, for now.
It is reported that due to stiff opposition from India, the deal was not signed.
India, in a diplomatic message conveyed through a non-paper without a signature, expressed apprehension about technical assessment of the aircraft.
The message stated that the engines of JF-17 were not the best and as a result, even China doesn’t use the aircraft anymore. Instead of JF-17, India offered Tejas, the country’s first indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
It was also pointed out that the Sri Lanka doesn’t need fighters for defence requirements as the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who sought independent state for Tamil minority, ended six years ago.
However, Sri Lanka’s defence expenditure is estimated to be $3 billion for 2016.
If aircraft worth $35 million each were sold to Sri Lanka, then Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) would have to set up a facility in the country for their maintenance and training. This would have further strengthen Sri Lanka’s contacts with Pakistan.
The aircraft, JF-17, is manufactured by PAC. It produces 25 aircraft per year and Pakistan was trying to sell 10-12 of them to Sri Lanka.
Earlier, Pakistan use to take China’s technical assistance for the aircraft, but now, it claims that aircraft are assembled solely by Pakistan. JF-17 has been used to strike terrorist hideouts in Pakistan.
Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena , who was recently on a three-day visit to Pakistan, signed eight MoUs, but the aircraft deal was not included in it.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has told PTI:
“We have also signed a number of Agreements and MoUs today, which would help promote cooperation between our two countries in the fields Trade promotion, Culture, Health, Gem and Jewellery, Science & Technology and Combating Money Laundering and Terror Financing.”
Further, terming Sri Lanka as a strong and steadfast friend, Sharif added that they are eternally grateful to the people and government of this beautiful Island state.