It’s a sale, not assistance: US diplomat on supply of F-16 equipment to Pakistan

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The Joe Biden-led US government has approved a USD 450 million F-16 fighter jet fleet sustainment program to Pakistan, reversing a Trump-era order which suspended security aid to Islamabad. However, a top US diplomat told India Today that it was just a sale of spare parts for the existing F-16 fleet with Paksitan and not aid from the US government.

Donald Lu, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asian Affairs, told India Today it is the worldwide policy of the US government to support the defence equipment provided by them to a country for the lifecycle of that particular system.

“In this case, it means spare parts and maintenance,” Donald Lu said.

“It is a sale, not assistance. And we are proposing to provide servicing of wings and equipment so that these airplanes can meet the air safety standard,” he added.

Also Read | So they can match us : Ex-India envoy’s concern over US-Pak F-16 aid

Donald Lu said under the program, no new capability and weapons system is being provided to Pakistan.

“We heard several concerns from the Indian government. Let me say this very clearly, this is a safety and maintenance program. There is no new aircraft being considered, no new capability and no new weapons system,” Donald Lu told India Today.

Donald Lu said that the fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft with Pakistan consists of very old aircraft. “Some of these aircraft are more than 40 years old and without such assistance, they could be a threat to the pilots and other people,” he said.

In 2018, then US President Donald Trump suspended about USD 2 billion in security aid to Pakistan for failing to suppress terror groups such as the Taliban and the Haqqani Network and dismantle their safe havens in the country.

CHINESE PRESENCE AT LAC

On the continuing standoff between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control, Donald Lu said, “Our position has always been to support dialogue between India and China to resolve the current situation. Unfortunately, we are not seeing any sincere effort by Beijing to resolve this dispute.”

Also Read | Indian, Chinese troops begin disengagement at Gogra-Hot Springs in eastern Ladakh

“What we see is the opposite. We see an effort to build military forces to try to intimidate India. Not that India will be intimidated. But China is definitely flexing its muscles. India can expect all its partners, including the US, to stand resolutely with India as it faces this terrible threat,” he added.

ON INDIA’S POSITION ON UKRAINE WAR

Speaking on India’s neutral stand on the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Donald Lu said though India and the US “don’t exactly see eye to eye sometimes” on the Ukraine crisis, but both countries share a fundamental belief that the conflict needs to end soon.

“We have welcomed India’s contributions in Ukraine. We appreciated when you have condemned human rights violations, including violations in Bucha. We think India has a role to play in this Ukraine crisis,” Donald Lu said.

On India’s purchase of Russian oil, Donald Lu said, “With respect to oil, it is a big issue. Prices are rising across the world and it is hard on families.”

“We have tried to talk to partners, including India, on how to reduce long-term dependency on Russia, although India does not have such a dependency. It is a recent phenomenon of buying oil,” he added.

ON KILLING OF AL-QAEDA CHIEF IN KABUL

Speaking about al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was killed in a US drone strike in Kabul, Donald Lu said, “Sheltering and harbouring terrorists such as Ayman al-Zawahiri is just proof to the world that the Taliban has grossly violated its commitments under the Doha agreement.”

“In addition to that, we can see that the Taliban is undermining its own stated goals which were to seek international recognition, to get financing for the rebuilding of Afghanistan and to get the legitimacy that it craves. How can it do that if it is harbouring terrorists?” he added.

On Pakistan, Donald Lu said the country also sees the threat coming from Afghanistan. “Pakistan has launched airstrikes to go after TTP. It has also lost lives. So it is a complex relationship between Pakistan and the Taliban,” he said.

— ENDS —



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