Despite Washington’s reservations about Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal, the Obama administration has given a go ahead to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to the country, along with training, radar and other equipment, worth a total of $699 million, in an attempt to bolster the relationship between the two countries.
“The proposed sale improves Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (a wing of the Pentagon), which coordinates such foreign arms sales, said in a statement.
However, India has expressed its disappointment over this and said it disagrees that “such arms transfers will help combat terrorism”.
The new fighter jets would add to Pakistan’s force of fighter jets which include dozens of French and Chinese attack aircraft.
The F-16 aircraft would allow Pakistan’s Air Force to operate in all kinds of weather, at night, as well as “enhance Pakistan’s ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counterterrorism operations.”
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned US Ambassador Richard Verma to convey India’s “displeasure”.
“We are disappointed at the decision of the Obama Administration to notify the sale of F-16 aircrafts to Pakistan. We disagree with their rationale that such arms transfers help to combat terrorism,” he said.
We are disappointed at the decision of the Obama Administration to notify the sale of F-16 aircrafts to Pakistan pic.twitter.com/NGdrAL2m9i
— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) February 13, 2016
Last year in April, the US State Department approved Pakistan’s request for a billion dollars worth of military hardware and equipment, identifying Pakistan as a country of vital importance for US foreign policy and national interests.
In May, the US gave Pakistan 14 combat aircraft, 59 military trainer jets and 374 armoured personnel carriers, which were earlier used by American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, reports suggest that many in the US Congress were concerned that the F-16 jets are more useful to Pakistan in its long confrontation with India than for counterterrorism operations. Some of the things that has worried Washington include Islamabad’s alleged ties with the Afghan Taliban, its alleged support for groups opposed to India and the US and its rapidly growing nuclear arsenal.
India too in the past had opposed the transfer of such arms to Pakistan as it believes Islamabad would eventually use the fighter jets against it.
According to the internal report prepared by Congressional Research Service (CRS)– an independent research wing of the US Congress– Pakistan will utilize its national funds to buy 18 new F-16C/D Block 52 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft worth $ 1.43 billion.
This includes F-16 armaments including 500 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles; 1,450 2,000-pound bombs; 500 JDAM Tail Kits for gravity bombs; and 1,600 Enhanced Paveway laser-guided kits. All this has cost Pakistan $629 million.
Pakistan has also paid $298 million for 100 harpoon anti-ship missiles, 500 sidewinder air-to-air missiles ($95 million); and seven Phalanx Close-In Weapons System naval guns ($80 million).
Under Coalition Support Funds (in the Pentagon budget), Pakistan received 26 Bell 412EP utility helicopters, along with related parts and maintenance, valued at $235 million.
Under Frontier Corps, and Pakistan Counterinsurgency Fund authorities, the US has given four Mi-17 multirole helicopters (another six were provided temporarily at no cost), four King Air 350 surveillance aircraft, and 450 vehicles.
In a recent report, two authoritative nuclear analysts estimated that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons stockpile has rose to between 110 and 130 warheads from an estimated 90 to 110 in 2011.
The analysts, Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, foresee it possibly expanding further to 220 to 250 warheads in another 10 years. That would make Pakistan the world’s fifth largest nuclear weapons state behind the United States, Russia, China and France.