WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has asked Pakistan to “put forward” its “national funds” to buy F-16 fighter jets, because some top American Senators have put a hold on the use of US tax payers’ money to subsidize Pakistan’s purchase.
“While Congress has approved the sale, key members have made clear that they object to using FMF (foreign military financing) to support it. Given Congressional objections, we have told the Pakistanis that they should put forward national funds for that purpose,” US state department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at his daily news conference on Monday.
Kirby, however, did not say when this decision was taken and when was it communicated to Pakistan.
On February 11, the state department had informed the Congress about its determination to sell eight fighter jets to Pakistan at an estimated cost of USD 700 million. The move was opposed by the Indian government and it summoned the US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, to lodge its protest.
Here in the US, top American lawmakers led by Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put a hold on the sale arguing that it would not let the Obama administration use tax payers’ money for the sale of the fighter jets to Pakistan. They also argued that Islamabad was not taking enough action against terrorist organisations, in particular against the Haqqani network, and that there continue to be terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.
Several Indian-American organisations also reached out to lawmakers expressing their concern over such a sale, which they argued is nothing but rewarding a bad actor.
Last week, top American lawmakers during a Congressional hearing openly told the Obama administration that they feared Pakistan would be using these F-16 fighter jets against India and not against terrorists.
However, the special representatives for Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Pakistan government insisted that the F-16 is an important tool in the fight against terrorism and urged Congress to remove the hold. The lawmakers stood their ground and told the Obama administration that it will not till the time Pakistan takes tangible action against the Haqqani network.
On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, who was found in a safe hideout in Abbottabad on the outskirts of a Pakistan Army garrison town, the US publicly announced that it has asked Pakistan to use its national resources to buy F-16.
The US expressed its disappointment over the Congressional hold. “Effective engagement with Pakistan, we believe, is critical to promoting the consolidation of democratic institutions and economic stability in supporting the government’s counterterrorism activities and capabilities,” Kirby said.
“As a matter of long-standing principle, the Department of State opposes conditions on the release of appropriated foreign assistance funds. We believe that such conditions limit the president and the secretary’s ability to conduct foreign policy in the best interest of the United States,” Kirby said.