Any proposal by the United States government to sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan would be met with strong opposition in Congress, two Democratic lawmakers and members of a pro-India lobby group said here Jan. 13.
U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine (D.-N.J.) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D.-N.J.) were in New Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of a four-nation tour of countries hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami.
The two discussed defense issues with Singh such as the Indian navy’s cooperation in relief efforts, but not a possible sale of the advanced fighter jets to Pakistan.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf reportedly asked to buy as many as 25 F-16 fighter jets when he visited Washington and met President George W. Bush in December.
“There would be substantial opposition in Congress if the administration proposes the sale of F-16s,” Pallone said.
“I don’t see how the F-16s can be used for anything but offensive purposes. I don’t think they’ll get it,” he added.
Sales of new weapons that could upset the balance of power in the volatile South Asian region have rankled both countries with Pakistan concerned India could get Patriot missiles and India concerned about possible sales of fighter jets and naval surveillance aircraft to Pakistan.
Pallone said that fighter jets would “most likely be used against India and other countries” and would be inappropriate to sell considering the recent revelations of the sale of nuclear weapons-related materials to other countries by the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, A. Q. Khan.
Corzine said Pakistan remains an important ally in the American-led war on terrorism and the United States needed to support the country in that effort.
“We certainly need the cooperation,” he said. “But I don’t think that leads to the sale of F-16s.”
Pallone belongs to the 186-member India Caucus in the 545-seat House of Representatives, and Corzine belongs to the 32-member counterpart in the 100-seat Senate, which is co-chaired by Hillary Clinton. Both congressmen oppose the sale of F-16s to Pakistan.
After waiving sanctions related to India’s May 1998 nuclear tests, the U.S. is considering selling the Patriot, a ground-based missile system offering defense against ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft, to the country for its support of a proposed global missile shield.
Pakistan received a similar nuclear test sanctions waiver for its support in the war on terrorism and was awarded major non-NATO ally status.
The two nuclear-armed countries, which have fought three wars in the past half-century, are in peace talks over the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir but at the same time are developing new medium- and long-range missile systems.