NEW DELHI / Bloomberg
India said that it is disappointed with the United States’ decision to sell eight nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan and that it does not believe such an arms transfer will help combat terrorism.
The US government saidthat it had approved the sale of the F-16 fighter aircraft, radar and electronic warfare equipment to Pakistan in a deal worth nearly $700 million. The US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, was summonedto the External Affairs Ministry, where Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar conveyed India’s displeasure with the deal.
The External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that India was disappointed with the decision of the Obama administration to sell the fighter jets to Pakistan and its justification that it will help efforts to fight terrorism.
“We disagree with their rationale that such arms transfers help combat terrorism,” the statement said. “The record of the last many years in this regard speaks for itself.” India is worried that arming Pakistan with advanced fighters jets will tilt the military balance in the region. Washington believes Pakistan’s strategic location next to Afghanistan makes it a useful ally in the war against global terrorism despite Pakistan allowing many militant groups to operate out of its territory.
During the Cold War, relations between India and the United States were strained as America tilted toward Pakistan and India had to turn to the Soviet Union for support. Relations have thawed since then. India and the United States have forged closer economic and defense ties in the past decade, although New Delhi has often protested continuing US military sales to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s close ties with China have always been a source of worry for India. China has been one of Pakistan’s biggest suppliers of weapons, and Islamabad has built its arsenal of nuclear weapons with Beijing’s help.
India now has another reason to worry. Russia, India’s main arms supplier, has been warming up to Pakistan in the past few years. In 2014, Russia lifted its embargo on arms exports to Pakistan and followed that up last year with an agreement to supply four Mi-35 attack helicopters to Islamabad. The decision on US fighter sales to Pakistan also comes at a time when India is pushing its rival to crack down on militant groups operating out of its territory.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. India has for decades accused Pakistan of harboring and supporting terrorist groups that regularly attack Indian targets.
Relations have not fully thawed since a deadly 2008 attack on India’s financial hub, Mumbai, by Pakistan-based militants in which 166 people were killed.