Rajnath expresses concern to Austin over $450 mn package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet

New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday expressed concern to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin over Washington’s decision to provide a sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet.

The concern was conveyed to the US Secretary by India’s Defence minister through a telephonic conversation.

“Had a warm and productive telephonic conversation with the US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin. We discussed growing convergence of strategic interests and enhanced defence & security cooperation,” Singh said on Twitter.

“I conveyed India’s concern at the recent US decision to provide sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet.”

“We also discussed ways to strengthen technological and industrial collaboration and also explore cooperation in emerging and critical technologies,” the minister added in the thread.

Rajnath Singh concluded saying: Look forward to continuing dialogue with Secretary Austin to further consolidating India-US partnership.

A Ministry of Defence statement, later in the day, said that the duo had a warm and fruitful telephonic conversation. They reviewed the multi-faceted India-US defence cooperation and reiterated mutual commitment to further strengthen military-to-military ties, it read.

“Secretary Austin expressed support for India’s defence modernisation programme and looked forward to further strengthening India-US defence industrial and technology collaboration.”

The two Ministers reiterated that both sides would continue their productive engagements with the objective of deepening India-US Strategic Partnership.

“The Raksha Mantri conveyed that he looked forward to welcoming Secretary Austin in India for the next Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue in 2023,” the statement read.

The Biden administration on September 7 approved the potential sale of F-16 aircraft sustainment and related equipment to Pakistan in a deal valued at up to $450 million.

The package includes the US government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics services to support Pakistan’s F-16 fleet, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency press release had said.

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