New Delhi: The Pentagon notified the US Congress on Friday of a decision to approve military sales worth $125 million that would result in end-use monitoring of the F-16 fighter jets of Pakistan. The notification comes after a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House.
A PTI report from Washington said US officials had clarified that the freeze in security assistance to Pakistan on Trump's direction in place since January 2018, was still in force. The latest decision would help in assigning some 60 contractors to Pakistan to help in end-use monitoring of F-16 fighter jets in that country.
"There has been no change to the security assistance suspension announced by the President in January 2018. As the President reiterated this week, we could consider the restoration of certain security assistance programmes consistent with the broader tenor of our relationship," a state department spokesperson told PTI.
"This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the US by protecting American technology through the continued presence of US personnel that provide 24x7 end-use monitoring," he said.
In New Delhi, the Indian foreign ministry did not comment on the matter.
The clarification followed a statement from the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency that said “The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for Technical Security Team (TST) in continued support of the F-16 programme for an estimated cost of $125 million."
According to the statement, Pakistan had requested a continuation of technical support services — American government and contractor technical and logistics support services — and other related elements of logistics support to assist in the oversight of operations in support of the Pakistan Peace Drive advanced F-16 programme. In its notification, the Pentagon asserted that the proposed sale of this support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
"Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of 60 contractor representatives to Pakistan to assist in the oversight of operations as part of the Peace Drive F-16 program," the statement said.
According to F-16.Net, the aircraft order by Pakistan was designated as "Peace Drive I." Under the programme, Pakistan ordered 54 F16 jets with the Pakistan Air Force receiving its first F-16 in 1982.
During recent India-Pakistan tensions after the 14 February Pulwama terrorist attack, Pakistan had used F-16 fighter jets against India in retaliation to the 26 February air strike on a terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan.