Issue Brief on “Fresh Tensions in Pakistan-US Relations: The F-16 Conundrum”

The relations between Pakistan and the USA have gone through several troublesome phases. The matter of the purchase of eight F-16 fighter jets from the US government has become the most recent roadblock in Pak-US bilateral ties. On basis of certain serious reservations regarding Pakistan’s supposed stance on the war on terror, the US establishment has stopped the deal from going through with subsidy that had been promised to Pakistan earlier. The overriding assumption is that Pakistan can use these fighter jets against India at any point in time. These apprehensions rhyme with those of the Indian lobby in the United States. There are some in the US Congress who believe that the provision of these jets to Pakistan could upset the military balance of South Asia. In this backdrop, there are many questions that arise regarding the future of the Pak-US relations. Will this lead to further deterioration of relations between the two countries? Will Pakistan make arrangements to procure the jets from an alternative source? Or will this remain an impasse between the two?

Earlier this year, eight F-16 fighter jets were to be sold to Pakistan through the FMF (Foreign Military Fund) programme. Pakistan was required to pay about $270 million out of the total $700 million while the rest was to be loaned by the US government to aid the anti-terrorist operations in the country. The deal, however, did not go through. The US authorities called for Pakistan to provide a Letter of Acceptance with respect to the pre-conditions of the sale which obligated Pakistan to arrange for the entire payment from its national funds.

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