Thursday, December 8, 2022

Questioned on F-16 assistance to Pakistan, U.S. says relationships with India, Pakistan distinct

India has repeatedly raised – at various levels – its objections to the U.S. assistance package for the F-16s

The U.S. has said its relationship with India and Pakistan are not in relation to each other when asked about External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s remarks criticising a recently announced $450 million U.S. assistance to Pakistan for “sustainment and related equipment” for its F-16 fighter jets.

“Well, we don’t view our relationship with Pakistan, and on the other hand we don’t view our relationship with India as in relation to one another,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said at the Department press briefing on Monday.

“These are both partners of ours with different points of emphasis in each, and we look to both as partners because we do have in many cases shared values, we do have in many cases shared interests,” he said, adding that the relationship with each country stood on its own. The U.S. also does everything it can to see that the India-Pakistan relationship is as “constructive” as possible, Mr. Price said.

Pakistan “You’re not fooling anybody by saying these things,” Mr. Jaishankar had said about the F-16 assistance package being given to Pakistan ostensibly for counter-terrorism reasons. The Minister said this during Sunday’s remarks at a diaspora event in Washington DC. He had also said that the U.S.-Pakistan relationship was serving neither Pakistan, nor the U.S. India has repeatedly raised – at various levels – its objections to the U.S. assistance package for the F-16s.

Also on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Pakistani counterpart, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The focus of their bilateral talks was 75 years of the US-Pakistan relationship and U.S. assistance to Pakistan for flood relief and reconstruction. However, India was also discussed, as per Mr. Blinken.

In remarks delivered after their meeting, Mr. Blinken said he and Mr. Bhutto Zardari “talked about the importance of managing a responsible relationship with India”. The Pakistan Foreign Minister did not allude to this in his remarks. Mr. Blinken said he had also asked Pakistan “to engage China on some of the important issues of debt relief and restructure so that Pakistan can more quickly recover from the floods”.

They also discussed commitments to democracy and upholding freedom or religion and belief, Mr. Blinken said.

“We continue to work closely on counterterrorism issues,” Mr. Blinken said., adding that the U.S. and Pakistan have a “shared stake” in Afghanistan’s future.

“ We’ve had our differences; that’s no secret,” he said. However, Pakistan and the U.S. shared a common objective, as per Mr. Blinken of a stable, peaceful future for Afghanistan and “for those across the broader region”. The Secretary said the two countries would work together to support the human rights of Afghans , particularly women and girls.

Mr. Blinken hosted a “working dinner” for Mr. Jaishankar on Monday evening and the two Ministers are scheduled to hold bilateral talks.

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