India has reacted strongly to America’s decision to sell eight F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Over the weekend, “disappointed” India summoned US Ambassador to New Delhi Richard Verma to convey its displeasure about the move.
During his meeting with Ambassador Verma, Indian Foreign Secretary Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said that India was disappointed at the decision because such arms transfers would not help Islamabad combat terrorism. He also said the Defence Security Co-operation Agency might have thought that the proposed sale worth nearly USD 700 million would contribute to American foreign policy objectives, but the wing of the Pentagon made the decision without considering Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats.
According to Dr Jaishankar, selling F-16 aircraft to Pakistan has not only been a matter of big debate in America, but also of a great concern in India. He also rubbished Washington’s argument that the move would bolster a tenuous partnership and improve Islamabad’s capability to meet security threats, saying that the Defence Security Co-operation Agency made a mistake by ignoring the US Congress’ advice. Earlier, the US Congress had tried to stall the sale, with senior Congressmen Ted Poe and Dan Rohrabacher saying that F-16s might not be used by Pakistan for humanitarian aid. The foreign secretary informed the American ambassador that India’s primary concern is that F-16s may not be deployed for counter-terrorism operations.
Indian defence expert Rajeev Sharma believes that New Delhi’s protests will not change America’s Pakistan policy. However, he welcomed the Narendra Modi administration’s decision to convey its concerns to the American envoy. India’s real concern is that cash-strapped Pakistan is keeping its military hardware well oiled on American money, Sharma explained. He also advised New Delhi to take the issue further, saying that it was just a notification and the actual sale of fighter jets to Pakistan could still be aborted as the Congress would have 30 days’ time to veto the move. It means that India will have to convince the American lawmakers in order to stall the sale.
Sharma further said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should raise the issue during his meeting with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in March. According to him, the Indian premier can make the president realise that the sale of fighter jets will never change the military balance in South Asia. As the Obama administration has changed its policy even after threatening Pakistan with cancellation of military aid because of its failure in tacking the home-grown terrorists, it is the perfect time for Modi to know what prompts the Obama administration to discover new virtues in Pakistan.