India registered a strong protest with the US last week over the latter’s decision to approve a $ 450 million sustainment package for Pakistan’s aging F-16 fleet. The protest is learnt to have come in the form of a sharp rebuke delivered to US assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs Donald Lu and focused on both substance and timing of the decision.
The package for Pakistan, which reversed the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to suspend such assistance to Islamabad, was announced while India was hosting top US officials, including Lu himself, for a US-India 2+2 Intersessional Meeting and Maritime Security Dialogue. Lu also led the US delegation in a Quad senior officials’ meeting.
While the Indian government doesn’t believe that this development will have any impact on the upward trajectory of the relationship, it’s upset that the US didn’t forewarn India about a policy decision that can have serious implications for India’s security.
The 2+2 dialogue took place on September 7, and the maritime talks the next day. While these meetings were going on the US announced it had notified Congress of a proposed Foreign Military Sales case to sustain the Pakistan’s F-16 programme. A state department spokesperson said Pakistan was an important counterterrorism partner, and “as part of longstanding policy, the United States provides life cycle maintenance and sustainment packages for US-origin platforms”.