Tags: U.S. | Sell | F-16 | Jets | Pakistan

U.S. to Sell F-16 Jets to Pakistan

Friday, 25 March 2005 12:00 AM

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, linked the proposed sales of the planes, manufactured by Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin, directly to Musharraf's cooperation after the terror attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

The sale of F-16s will not change the overall balance of military power in the region and are vital to Pakistan's security as Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff prosecutes the war on terror, said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Officials at the State Department, explaining the decision further, but only on the basis of anonymity, said India is contemplating a very large purchase of fighter planes, but added that it is up to India to decide which country it will purchase them from.

The United States has told India that American defense companies would be allowed to bid for the multi-role combat aircraft that India wants to buy, Navtej Sarna, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman, told reporters in New Delhi. A group from the United States is expected in India shortly for discussions.

At a defense seminar in Bangalore, India, the nation's air force chief said the U.S.-built F-16 and France's Mirage jet fighters are among the warplanes India is considering for a purchase of 126 new aircraft. In addition to the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Dassault Aviation's Mirage, New Delhi is also eyeing the Swedish-made Gripen fighter and the Russian MiG range, made by Mikoyan-Gurevich, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi said.

The State Department officials also said the United States is weighing an expansion of its strategic partnership with India, with cooperation on a range of economic, commercial and security issues, including missile defense. The goal is helping India become a major world power.

Pakistan's information minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, hailed the administration's decision as a "good gesture by the United States" and said the transaction would ease anti-American sentiment in the Islamic nation.

"This will fulfill our defense requirements," he said. "We had been lagging behind (India) in conventional weapons. This will improve the situation."

The sales to two nuclear countries that have warred over the Kashmir territory could raise eyebrows among U.S. allies in Europe who are under White House pressure not to lift an arms embargo on China. The administration argues that European weapons could contribute to rising tensions between Beijing and Taiwan.

Pakistan struck a deal with the United States to buy the nuclear-capable F-16 fighter jets in the late 1980s, but the agreement was scrapped in the 1990s when Washington imposed sanctions on Islamabad over its nuclear weapons program. Since then, Islamabad, which had paid in advance for the F-16s, has been pressuring Washington to supply the rest of the planes.

The United States had signed a separate $1.3 billion arms package to Pakistan last year.

India had voiced its opposition to the resumption of supply of F-16s to Pakistan during talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she made a whistle-stop tour of South Asia last week.

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A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, linked the proposed sales of the planes, manufactured by Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin, directly to Musharraf's cooperation after the terror attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The sale of...
U.S.,Sell,F-16,Jets,Pakistan
497
2005-00-25
Friday, 25 March 2005 12:00 AM
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