Pakistan said on Monday at the start of strategic talks with the United States that a contentious sale of F-16 fighter jets would strengthen country’s ability to mount counter-terrorist operations and promote regional stability.
The US government this month approved the sale of the aircraft, radar and electronic warfare equipment to Pakistan in a deal worth nearly $700 million.
Neighboring India opposes the sale, which has drawn criticism from some US lawmakers. Congress could block the deal, although such action is rare.
Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz said he appreciated the US leadership’s public assessment that Pakistan uses F-16s effectively against terrorists.
Secretary of State John Kerry last week told a House committee that Pakistan’s existing fleet of F-16s has been critical for its counter-terrorism fight on its western border with Afghanistan.
But Aziz urged the Obama administration to do more “to bring Congress fully in the picture about the positive steps taken by Pakistan to further our mutual interests and the very significant change in ground realities that has taken place in the past two-and-a-half years,”.
Kerry did not mention the F-16s sale in his remarks on Monday, but he commended Pakistan’s counter terrorism operations, including in North Waziristan, a tribal area where militants have launched cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
Kerry welcomed Pakistan’s commitment to not differentiate among terrorist groups.
He said groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba seek to undermine Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors.
Kerry also said they would also discuss Pakistan’s “obligations of being a responsible state with nuclear weapons,“.
Kerry noted that the US and Russia had succeeded in reducing their nuclear stockpiles. “We are moving in the other direction, and I think it’s important for Pakistan to really process that reality and put that front and center in its policy,” Kerry said.
He looked forward to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being among world leaders attending a nuclear security summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington at the end of March.