Sale of F-16 Planes: Statement by Sartaj Aziz in Senate

Islamabad, May 12, 2016 (PPI-OT):Winding up the debate on the Adjournment Motion moved by Senator Mohsin Khan Leghari and other Senators on sale of F-16 Fighter Jets to Pakistan by the United States Administration, the Adviser on Foreign Affairs made the following statement.

1. In October 2015 Pakistan had reached an understanding with the US to buy 8 x Block-52 F-16 Planes of worth US $ 699 million. Under the deal Pakistan was required to pay about US $ 270 million from its national funds, whereas; US was supposed to provide the rest i.e. 429 million from its Foreign Military Financing (FMF).

2. The proposed sale of 8 new F-16 aircraft to Pakistan has two main elements i.e. approval of the sale in principle and approval of the funding through Foreign Military Finance (FMF) of the US Government. While we have already achieved the approval for the sale, the funding issue is still being discussed as the US Congress has turned down the Administration’s proposal for use of FMF facility on this count.

3. In view of the importance of the issue, Pakistan has been making all out efforts to finalize this deal as initially promised by the US Administration:-

i. The issue is under discussion with US Department of Defence and Department of State since last one year. US Govt. is cognizant of our requirement and acknowledges the effectiveness of these jets in our war against terrorists.

ii. Ministry of Defence has forcefully conveyed its standpoint at all levels. On 9th May 2016, Secretary Defence expressed concerns over the delay in the sale of F-16s to Commander US CENTCOM General Joseph L. Votel during his call.

iii. Pakistan’s Ambassador to US Mr. Jalil Abbas Jilani has also intensified lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill to try and convince US Congress to release funds for purchase of F-16 Jets which are critical for the success of ongoing war against terrorism.

iv. On 19 April 2016, Minister for Defence has written a letter to Ashton Carter, US Secretary of Defence highlighting the role of PAF and importance of F-16s for Pakistan against war on terror and requested for early resolution of the issue in favour of Pakistan.

v. The issue of F-16s will be taken up with concerned US authorities during the Interim Progress Review meeting of 24th Pak-US DCG scheduled to be held from 30th May to 3rd June 2016 in Washington D.C.

4. While defending the US Administration’s decision for the sale during the public Congressional hearing on 27 April 2016, the US Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), Ambassador Richard Olson, made almost the same points as have been repeatedly advocated by Pakistan. The US State Department Spokesman has also labelled the objections raised by the Congress concerning use of FMF funds for the sale as “not helpful in the conduct of the US Foreign Policy in the region”.

5. The Indian lobby has been making untiring efforts to reverse the US decision, and a strong attempt, through Senator Rand Paul’s resolution, to block the sale itself. The move was however defeated proving the strong merit of our arguments, and the effectiveness of our outreach to the US at various levels, particularly to the US Congressional leaders.

6. The fundamental objections raised by some US Congressmen, concerning use of FMF for the sale, are essentially political in nature. Even though U. S. State Department has been consistently underlining the importance of good relations with Pakistan, there are broader geo-political issues which must be kept in view. The Chairman in his remarks yesterday also expressed his reservations about the way USA was conducting its relationship with Pakistan. May I, therefore, make a more detailed statement on US-Pakistan relations.

US-Pakistan Relations:

7. Our relations with the United States constitute an important element of our foreign, defence and economic policies. This seven-decade old relationship, while robust and wide ranging, is characterised with occasional vicissitudes. Despites its inherent challenges, both sides have managed to keep a pragmatic, working relationship over the course of years.

8. The Pakistan-US relations had come to a near complete standstill during 2011-2012 due to the unfortunate incidents of wiki leaks, Raymond Davis, Abbottabad operation, Datta Khel and Salala. Since 2013, however, our relations with the United States have witnessed an upward trajectory.

9. Although the focus of this relationship has generally remained security-centric, both sides now agree to expand mutual cooperation to many other areas including Economic growth, Energy, Education, Science and Technology, climate change, regional integration, cultural ties and support for democratic principles.

10. The Prime Minister visited Washington twice- in October 2013 and again in October 2015. During the visit last year, the Prime Minister held detailed talks with President Obama who expressed his strong desire to raise bilateral relationship with Pakistan to a multi-dimensional level. The Joint Statement on the visit had also acknowledged the need for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. Both sides also expressed a conviction that a resilient US-Pakistan partnership was vital to regional and global peace and security and reaffirmed their commitment to address evolving threats in South Asia.

11. Other important engagements that year, including visit of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to the US and Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry’s visit to Islamabad, also helped in enhancing trust and in restoring an upbeat working environment between the two sides.

12. The Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue mechanism occupies a centrepiece in the relationship. Regular Ministerial reviews and meetings under its six Working Groups act as useful platform to enhance cooperation with US.

13. The 6th and latest Round of Strategic Dialogue was held in Washington on 29 February 2016. During my meeting with Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry, the discussions focused on reviewing the achievements made, identifying hurdles and reconciling expectations and concerns on each side. Both sides expressed their resolve to continue cooperation for successful completion of the agreed initiatives and projects.

14. Salient outcomes of the meeting included agreement to enhance linkages between Universities of the two countries under the Pakistan-US Knowledge Corridor initiative; various proposals under US-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership; US cooperation in Integrated Energy Planning and Climate Change programs; early completion of feasibility studies for the Diamer Bhasha dam project; continued efforts to provide greater market access to Pakistan in the US and appreciation of Pakistan’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.

15. The 24th meeting of the Defence Consultative Group (DCG), under the Strategic Dialogue, was held in December 2015. The 4th Pakistan-US Business Opportunities Conference is now scheduled to be held on 03 June 2016 in New York. The US side is also planning to host another business opportunities conference to attract potential US investors for the Diamer Bhasha Dam project, later this year in the US.

16. The US had also appreciated the agreement between Pakistan and India to resume Comprehensive Dialogue, in December 2015. It had also participated in the Heart of Asia ministerial meeting in Islamabad and the subsequent formation of the QCG group on Afghanistan. The US is working with Pakistan, China and Afghanistan to carry forward the reconciliation process in Afghanistan under the QCG.

17. In the past three months, however, this upward trajectory in the relationship has witnessed a downward slide, as reflected in the decision of the US Congress to block partial funding for 8 F-16 aircraft through the use of FMF. This may have been caused by the concerns raised by the US on the nuclear issue that were categorically rejected by Pakistan. We have also rejected the frequent demand, especially from the US Congress, for release of Mr. Shakil Afridi. The US officials, Congress, think-tanks and media, in tandem with our adversaries, have also been blaming Pakistan for supporting the Haqqani Network (HQN) without providing any concrete evidence to enable us take additional action against the HQN or other terrorist organizations.

18. The spring offensive launched by the Afghan Taliban, with the latest, massive terrorist attack in Kabul on 19 April 2016 has further aggravated the already bleak security situation in Afghanistan. The Afghan Government and the US media have started casting shadows on the QCG process. Pakistan has been impressing upon the US and Afghan side that the reconciliation process needs to be given a fair chance and more time. Irreconcilable elements can be targeted after concerted efforts of negotiations have failed. We hope to discuss these issues in detail during the upcoming round of the QCG in Islamabad on 18-19 May 2016.

19. The US Election fever, and the ongoing debates during the Presidential campaign by the leading candidates of the Republican and Democratic parties are putting considerable pressure on the tricky situation in our region. However the HQN issue remains the top US concern at the moment. The Indian lobby in the US has also been highly pro-active in adding fuel to the fire, especially after the Pathankot incident on 1 January 2016.

20. We have forcefully rejected Indian objections to the sale of 8 F-16 to Pakistan and drawn attention to the wide ranging defence deals concluded between India and USA during US Defence Secretary’s recent visit to India. We have also emphasized the importance of maintaining strategic stability in South Asia.

21. In order to assuage US concerns, the government has been making strides on multiple fronts to keep the US Administration and the Congress members engaged in a dialogue, highlighting Pakistan’s committed efforts and huge sacrifices in confronting the menace of terrorism. In this regard, visits of two delegations of Senior Staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Foreign Relations Committee proved helpful in the final approval for sale of new F-16s to Pakistan by the Congress.

22. While the task at hand is challenging and our space to maneuver is limited due to our own national security objectives, we are confident that committed efforts by our valiant armed forces in disrupting and dismantling the terrorists, alongwith our forceful efforts at the Hill, the White House and the US Departments would enable us to overcome these concerns, and maintain the positive trend of the relationship.

23. The Foreign Office welcomed the guidance provided by the Members of this August House during this debate. This guidance will enable us to pursue our efforts to strengthen our relations with the United States while protecting our vital national interests.

For more information, contact:
Mr. Aizaz Ahmad Ch
Spokesman
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Tell: +92-51-9205494
Fax: +92-51-9204202
Cell: +92-336-5644459
Website: www.mofa.gov.pk