WASHINGTON: The Obama Administration’s proposal to sell eight F-16 jets to Pakistan is unlikely to have a smooth sailing in the US Congress with both Republicans and Democrats having raised concerns over Pakistan providing safe haven to terror groups acting against India and Afghanistan.
In the last few days, influential lawmakers have sent a flurry of letters to US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their opposition to the Administration decision to sell F-16s to Pakistan.
They told the White House and the State Department that they would work to ensure that Pakistan does not get these fighter jets until terrorist safe havens exist there and state actors support terror groups.
“While it is my intention at this time to clear the sale of eight F-1 6 aircraft to Pakistan, I do not plan to support the expenditure of the very limited Foreign Military Financing (FMF) account to finance this deal, now or in the future,” Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said in a letter to Kerry on February 9.
“I reiterate my present hold on the release of funds via CN 15-319. I may reconsider my blanket hold on US FMF assistance should the Pakistanis make progress on addressing my significant concerns about their support for the Haqqani network. But but for now if they wish to purchase this military equipment, they will do so without a subsidy from the American taxpayer,” Mr Corker, a Republican party member, told Mr Kerry in his letter.
The State Department today notified the Congress of its determination to sell eight F-16s to Pakistan.
The Congress has 30 days’ time to act on the proposal. In case of any objection, the process would be lengthier and complicated as the proposed sale would be debated and voted in the Congress. Normally this kind of situation does not arise as in case of opposition to major arms deals, both the Congressional leaders and the administration mutually work together to arrive at consensus.
“The Administration’s proposed sale of eight new F-16 combat aircraft to Pakistan raises substantial concerns,” Congressman Matt Salmon, Chairman of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told US President Barack Obama in a letter dated February 10.
“As several other Members of Congress and numerous independent experts have argued, providing such a significant upgrade to Pakistan’s offensive military capabilities is extremely problematic in light of the Pakistani military’s widely alleged complicity in terrorist violence, as well as the potential for the Pakistani military to use these F-16s to deliver nuclear weapons in a conflict scenario with India. I strongly urge the Administration to reconsider the sale,” Mr Salmon, another Republican leader, wrote.
And in a joint letter to Mr Kerry, influential lawmakers Ted Poe from the Republican party and Tulsi Gabbard from the Democratic party voices their serious our serious concerns regarding the potential sale of eight Block C/D 52 F-16 aircraft to the Government of Pakistan.
“Given that the United States has already supplied Pakistan with over USD 30 billion in foreign assistance from FY2002-FY2016 and Pakistan still has not changed its behaviour in any significant way, it is unconvincing that giving Pakistan more taxpayer dollars to finance the purchase of F-16s will somehow break that trend,” they wrote.
“Pakistan has the ability to become an integral partner in the international community and be part of the solution on ending terrorism and the instability that plagues the region. Until that time comes, however, we urge you not to use taxpayer money to finance the sale of F-16s to Pakistan,” Mr Poe and Gabbard said.
Pakistan has not shown that it is a reliable partner to the United States and has actively undermined American national interests in the region.
Until Pakistan is able to demonstrate meaningful changes in its actions, it is inappropriate to finance the sale with US taxpayer funding, they argued.
Pakistan has long harboured and provided safe haven to terrorist groups that launch destabilising attacks on its neighbours, India and Afghanistan, they said.
“The Pakistani and Taliban-linked terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, listed by the US government since 2001 as a designated foreign terrorist organisation, is believed to be behind the recent attack on India’s Pathankot Air Force base, which killed seven Indian nationals,” Ms Gabbard and Mr Poe said.
“On February 3, Hafiz Saeed, one of the masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks in which six US citizens were killed, called for additional attacks against India.
Despite being designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations, a USD10 million bounty on his head by the US government and pleas from India to rein in Saeed, he remains free,” they argued.