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Blinken defends Pakistani arms exports in the face of Indian opposition

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended military supplies to Pakistan on Tuesday in response to criticism from expanding US ally India, which views itself as the target of Islamabad’s F-16 planes.

Blinken met with India’s foreign minister in the capital of the United States a day after separate discussions with Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

The Cold War-era US-Pakistan partnership has eroded over Islamabad’s cooperation with the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan.

The top US ambassador defended a $450 million F-16 purchase for Pakistan that was approved in early September, stating that the funds would be used to maintain Pakistan’s existing fleet.

The package does not include the supply of any new capabilities, armaments, or munitions and is intended to sustain the F-16 program of the Pakistan Air Force.

These are not brand-new aircraft, systems, or weaponry. But, at a news conference with his Indian colleague, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the US secretary of state stated, “It’s about maintaining what they’ve had.”

Pakistan’s program strengthens its capacity to combat terrorist threats emerging from Pakistan or the surrounding region. It is in no one’s interest for these dangers to be allowed to proceed with impunity. Thus, Pakistan’s ability to combat terrorism is advantageous to all of us,” Blinken added.

He said the United States has a “duty and an obligation to ensure that whatever military equipment it provides is maintained and sustained.” This is our responsibility.”

When pressed to clarify the terrorism risks and the necessity for F-16s to combat them, Blinken stated, “There are definite terrorism threats emanating from Pakistan and its neighbors.”

“Whether it is the TTP (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) that may be targeting Pakistan, ISIS-Khorasan, or Al-Qaeda, I believe the threats are clear and well-known, and we all have an interest in ensuring that we can counter them. And that is the purpose of this.”

Blinken stated that it would be inappropriate to “characterize Pakistan’s answer” in response to a second question regarding his meeting with FM Bilawal on strengthening relations between Pakistan and India, his advice to Pakistan in this regard, and Pakistan’s reaction.

“We always encourage our allies to overcome their disagreements through diplomacy and conversation. This remains unchanged. It will not alter. “It would be inappropriate for me to characterize Pakistan’s response, just as I wouldn’t characterize our friend’s behavior in a comparable situation,” he stated.

Jaishankar did not publicly criticize Blinken, but on Sunday, at a reception for the Indian community in the United States, he stated, “You’re not fooling anyone.”

“Everyone is aware of the F-16’s deployment,” he stated. “For someone to claim that he or she is doing this for anti-terrorism when discussing an aircraft with the F-16’s capabilities is absurd.”

“In all candor, neither Pakistan nor American interests have benefited from this alliance,” he stated.

Previously, the Indian defense minister had also voiced concerns to his colleague in Washington on the F-16 sale.

“I communicated India’s worry over the recent US decision to give a sustainment package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet,” Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted after what he termed a “warm and fruitful” conversation with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

FO advises India not to remark on Pakistan-US relations.

Pakistan, on its part, has firmly advised India not to remark on bilateral relations between the United States and Pakistan.

Asim Iftikhar Ahmed, a Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson, stated in response to Jaishankar’s comments on Sunday that Pakistan’s “longstanding and broad-based relationship” with the United States had been crucial in promoting peace, security, and stability in the region.

The representative demanded that India “follow fundamental principles governing interstate interactions.”

“India’s diplomatic conduct requires severe evaluation,” he added.

During an address at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, a Washington-based think group, Bilawal commented on India’s response to the military sale package.

“Indians are going to be upset; let them be; what should we do?” he asked.

Separately, during a weekly briefing on Monday, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price responded to a question regarding Jaishankar’s remarks by stating that the US did not perceive its relationship with Pakistan and India as related.

These are both partners of ours with different focuses, and we consider both partners because we share values and interests in many instances.

$450m military sale package

In a press release issued earlier this month, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) reported that the Pakistani government had requested the consolidation of prior F-16 sustainment and support cases to support the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet by reducing duplicate case activities and adding additional continued support elements.

The subsequent support for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet would include participation in the F-16 Aircraft Structural Integrity Programme, the Electronic Combat International Security Assistance Programme, the International Engine Management Programme, and the Engine Component Improvement Programme, among other technical coordination groups, according to the press release.

The support would also include aircraft and engine hardware and software modifications and support; aircraft and engine spare repair/return parts; accessories and support equipment; classified and unclassified software and software support; publications, manuals, and technical documentation; precision measurement, calibration, lab equipment, and technical support services; studies and surveys; and other elements associated with aircraft maintenance and program support.

Separately, in a notification to US Congress, the DSCA stated: “This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by allowing Pakistan to maintain interoperability with US and partner forces in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and preparation for future contingency operations.”

“The proposed sale will maintain the maintenance of Pakistan’s F-16 aircraft, significantly enhancing Pakistan’s air-to-ground capacity to support counterterrorism operations. Moreover, Pakistan would have little trouble integrating these goods and services into its military.”

The DSCA stated that Lockheed Martin Corporation will be the primary contractor for this planned sale and that no new US government or contractor representatives will be required in Pakistan.