India concerned about U.S. package for Pak F-16s

New Delhi: India conveyed its “concerns” on Wednesday regarding the “sustenance package” approved by the United States for the US-manufactured F-16 fighter jets of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made his views known to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a phone call late Wednesday.

“I conveyed India’s concern at the recent US decision to provide sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet,” Singh said in a Twitter post. “Look forward to continuing dialogue with Secretary Austin to further consolidate India-US partnership.”

Last week, the US State Department approved the potential sale of F-16 aircraft upgradation equipment to Pakistan in a deal valued at an estimated $450 million. The F-16s are viewed as one of the most capable fighter jets in the world. An upgrade would enhance Islamabad’s combat capabilities.

During official meetings with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu in Delhi last week, India had raised “strong objections” to the U.S. plan for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) worth $450 million for hardware, software, and spares for the F-16 fighter jet program with Pakistan.

Lu reportedly told Indian officials that the FMS F-16 package was a maintenance deal for F-16s, some of which are 40 years old and part of the U.S.’s global policy of maintaining its defense sales for their entire lifecycle.

It was PAFs F-16 fighters that had tried to breach the Indian Air space on February 27, 2019, in response to the Indian air raid on the Jaish-e-Mohammed training facility in Balakot, Pakistan.

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