Top diplomat Anthony Blinken says $450 million deal with Islamabad is for maintenance of its existing fighter jets.

“These are not new planes, new systems, new weapons. It’s sustaining what they have,” says Blinken, a day after meeting his Pakistani counterpart Zardari.
“These are not new planes, new systems, new weapons. It’s sustaining what they have,” says Blinken, a day after meeting his Pakistani counterpart Zardari. (Reuters)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has defended military sales to Pakistan after withering criticism from growing US partner India, which considers itself the target of Islamabad’s F-16 planes.

Blinken met in the US capital with India’s foreign minister on Tuesday, a day after separate talks with his counterpart from Pakistan.

The top US diplomat defended a $450 million F-16 deal for Pakistan approved earlier in September, saying the package was for the maintenance of Pakistan’s existing fleet.

“These are not new planes, new systems, new weapons. It’s sustaining what they have,” Blinken told a news conference with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

“Pakistan’s programme bolsters its capability to deal with terrorist threats emanating from Pakistan or from the region.

It’s in no one’s interests that those threats be able to go forward with impunity,” Blinken said.

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‘You’re not fooling anyone’

Jaishankar did not criticise Blinken in public. But on Sunday, speaking at a reception for the Indian community in the United States, Jaishankar said of the US position: “You’re not fooling anybody.”

“For someone to say, I’m doing this because it’s for counter-terrorism when you’re talking of an aircraft like the capability of the F-16, everybody knows where they are deployed,” he said, referring to the fleet’s positioning against India.

“Very honestly, it’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well nor serving American interests well,” he said.

Pakistan’s military relies on US equipment but the relationship soured during the two-decade US war in Afghanistan, with Washington believing that elements in Islamabad never severed support for the Taliban, which seized back power last year.

India historically has bought military equipment from Moscow and has pressed the United States to waive sanctions required under a 2017 law for any nation that buys “significant” military hardware from Russia.

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Source: AFP