United States (US) State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday that US-Pakistan were not contingent on India.
Price’s comments, made at a presser, follow in the wake of stinging Indian criticism of the recently-announced US$450 million upgrade package for the F-16 fleet of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). “Well, we don’t view our relationship with Pakistan, and on the other hand we don’t view our relationship with India as in relation to one another,” he said.
Price said both countries were partners of the US with both boasting “different points of emphasis”. “These are both partners of ours with different points of emphasis in each, and we look to both as partners because we do have in many cases shared values, we do have in many cases shared interests.”
The State Department spokesperson went on to elucidate that the US had standalone ties with both countries. “And the relationship we have with India stands on its own; the relationship we have with Pakistan stands on its own,” he said.
“We also want to do everything we can to see to it that these neighbors have relations with one another that are as constructive as can be possible. And so that’s another point of emphasis,” Price said.
Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had questioned the “merits” of bilateral Pakistan-US ties on Sunday saying Islamabad had not served “American interests”. “It’s a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well nor serving the American interests,” the minister said at an event organised by the Indian diaspora in the US, according to ANI.
He made the remarks after being posed a question on the aforementioned F-16 package for Pakistan. “It’s really for the United States today to reflect on the merits of this relationship and what they get by it,” Jaishankar said. It was common knowledge, he said, where aircraft such as the F-16 were used and deployed. He said nobody would stand fooled by statements on such initiatives facilitating counter-terrorism efforts. “For someone to say I am doing this because it is all counter-terrorism content and so when you are talking of an aircraft like a capability of an F-16 where everybody knows, you know where they are deployed and their use. You are not fooling anybody by saying these things.”
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had earlier on September 14 tweeted how he had conveyed “India’s concern” to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a telephone conversation. “I conveyed India’s concern at the recent US decision to provide sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet. Look forward to continuing dialogue with Seceratry (sic) Austin to further consolidating India-US partnership,” Singh had tweeted.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency had delivered the required certification notifying Congress of the possible sale earlier on September 7. “The Government of Pakistan had requested to consolidate prior F-16 sustainment and support cases to support the Pakistan Air Force F-16 fleet by reducing duplicate case activities and adding additional continued support elements,” the statement read. Included in the package were American government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics services to support the PAF F-16 fleet.
The DSCA went on record to state that the upgrade package, valued at US$450 million, did not include any new capabilities, weapons or munitions. Neither, the DSCA said, did it alter the regional balance of power.
The proposed sale, unsurprisingly, left Pakistan arch-adversary India rankled. Indian functionaries reportedly protested against the decision at “each and every” bilateral meet with United States Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu who was in the country for the Quad Senior Officials Meeting (SOM).