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Some issues still remain in Pak-US F-16 deal

By Wajid Ali Syed
March 15, 2016

WASHINGTON: While the US government’s intent to sell eight fighter jets to Pakistan has been green signalled by the Congress, the final deal still hinges on many intricacies, including the financing of jets before they could fly out to Pakistan and help combat terrorism with more precision and resources.

The 30-day obligation to get approval from the Senate passed last Saturday. The opposition to the deal and effort to block it was rejected by 71 votes against 24. Yet, a few powerful lawmakers maintained a hold on the US financing for these jets. Among them were Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Ranking Democrat, Senator Bob Corker and Senator Ben Cardin respectively.

Senator Cardin voiced their concern saying, “Senator Corker and I had not signed off on that nor do we intend to sign off on that until we have further explanation on a lot of the issues that Senator Corker and I have already raised.”

They asked for reassurances from the administration that Pakistan’s fight against terrorism has more results. “I have issues with Pakistan too,” Corker said, adding, “It’s actually a difference of tactics. I’d like to try to encourage more behaviour changes and I think withholding the financial component is a much better way of doing that.”

The total cost of the sale nears 700 million dollars, according to the notification by the Obama administration. The request to purchase F-16s was placed by Pakistan, and if the subsidy remains locked Pakistan might have to shore up the amount to buy those jets.

The approval from the US Senate merely means that the administration can go ahead with their intent to sell the fighter jets, but how and when the administration can possibly do it remains to be seen. Technically, the administration now has to offer the deal in return to Pakistan along with its financial bearings.

Commenting on the issue, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani said, “Both sides remain engaged as the process moves forward. We remain confident of a positive outcome. US-Pakistan cooperation has a long and successful history. It serves our mutual interests.” The mutual interest, however, is to combat terrorism. The notification outlines it as well saying, “This sale will increase the number of aircraft available to the Pakistan Air Force to sustain operations, meet monthly training requirements and support transition training for pilots new to the Block 52.” As per the notification, the proposed sale contributes to US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia.