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No conditions should be attached to the sale of F-16s: Foreign Secretary

08 May, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan needs modern F-16 fighter jets for its ongoing war against terrorism but rejects the conditions the United States has attached with their sale, said Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry on Saturday.

Speaking to journalists, scholars and corporate leaders at a breakfast meeting in Islamabad, the foreign secretary said no conditions should be attached to the sale of F-16s because Pakistan plans to use the jets only for the purpose of fighting terrorists.

The US State Department earlier this week said Pakistan will have to pay from its own funds if it wants to buy F-16 fighter jets, after the US Congress last month withdrew funds for the deal to force Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network.

Chaudhry said Saturday that diplomatic efforts were underway to convince the Congress to subsidise the sale of the fighter jets.

Pakistan had earlier reached an understanding with the US for buying eight F-16 planes. Under the deal, Pakistan was required to pay about $270m from its national funds. The US was supposed to provide the rest from its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) fund.

Pakistan has conveyed to the US that it does not have the money to buy F-16 jets from its resources and has cautioned that if the stalemate over funding is not resolved it may consider buying some other fighter aircraft to meet its needs.

Among the key reasons behind the Congressional hold are concerns that Pakistan has not taken enough action against the Haqqani network; jail sentence for Dr Shakeel Afridi — the physician who had cooperated with the US in tracking Osama bin Laden; and fears about Pakistani nuclear programme.

Commenting on the stalled dialogue between India and Pakistan, the foreign secretary said Pakistan has made it clear to India that the issue of Kashmir cannot be whisked away from the talks.

"Whenever there will be talks between Pakistan and India, Kashmir will remain on top of the agenda," he said.

He said the arrest of Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav from Balochistan has verified India's involvement in Pakistan's internal affairs.

He admitted, however, that there is a trust deficit between Pakistan and India which needs to be removed for better ties between the two nations.

The foreign secretary said Daesh [Arabic acronym for the militant Islamic State (IS) group] has no organised presence in Pakistan, and only a few people have claimed an association with the terrorist organisation.

"Pakistani agencies are on alert in order to deal with any possible threat, which is why action has been taken against such elements."

Chaudhry rejected the option to use military action to curb turmoil in Afghanistan, saying all warring factions in Afghanistan should shun violence and come on the table to negotiate for regional peace.

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