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Antony Blinken defends US arms sales to Pakistan

September 28, 2022

US Secretary of State Blinken said the $450 million F-16 deal with Pakistan was to maintain existing planes and systems. He and Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar discussed visas, the war in Ukraine, and oil prices.

Jaishankar and Blinken address a news conference in Washington.
Jaishankar said the high price of oil was a concern in developing nations.Image: Saul Loeb/Poo/AP/picture alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the sale of weapons systems to Pakistan after criticism from India.

Blinken was speaking at a news conference in Washington, DC, with India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Tuesday. He had met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari the previous day, where the two nations discussed having responsible relations with India. 

"These are not new planes, new systems, new weapons. It's sustaining what they have," Blinken said, referring to a $450 million (€470 million) F-16 deal for Pakistan approved earlier in September.

What did Jaishankar say?

On Sunday, Jaishankar said the US "wasn't fooling anybody" about its position regarding Pakistan. 

"For someone to say, I'm doing this because it's for counter-terrorism, when you're talking of an aircraft like the capability of the F-16, everybody knows where they are deployed. Very honestly, it's a relationship that has neither ended up serving Pakistan well nor serving American interests well," he said while speaking at a reception of the Indian community in the United States.

The US-Pakistan alliance started during the Cold War but has degenerated due to Islamabad's relationship with the Taliban in Afghanistan. 

Neighbors India and Pakistan have historically had complicated and tense relations. The US and India have had cordial ties since the 1990s, finding common ground on issues such as China and Islamist terrorism.

India has historically bought military equipment from Moscow and wants the US to waive sanctions for any nation that buys military hardware from Russia.

During his speech, Jaishankar added that India has also made significant purchases from the US, France and Israel. "We exercise a choice which we believe is in our national interest," he said, rejecting any change due to "geopolitical tensions."

What else was discussed?

Jaishankar also raised the issue of long waiting times for Indians wishing to get a visa to the US. Blinken said the issues were largely due to the pandemic and said those concerns would be addressed. 

India also expressed concerns about the price of oil and the energy needs of developing countries, the Indian daily Hindustan Times reported. "We are a $2,000 per capita economy. The price of oil is breaking our back," said Jaishankar. 

Jaishankar also addressed the Ukraine war, saying the conflict was not in anybody's interest and the best way forward was through dialogue and diplomacy.

Speaking about the Ukraine war, he said this conflict is not in anybody's interest, adding the best way forward is to return to dialogue and diplomacy.

tg/sms (AFP, Reuters)