India on Wednesday conveyed its “concern” to United States over the latter’s decision to provide sustenance package for a fleet of Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets. Pakistan had used F-16 jets in Jammu and Kashmir as a counter offnsive following the air strikes at Balakot terror camps in 2019.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he had conveyed India’s concern during a telephonic conversation with US counterpart Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin.

After the Pakistan's to hit military installations in Rajouri on February 27, 2019, the India had raised objections to the use of the F-16 on the grounds that it violated the US sale condition. The then Air Vice Marshal, RGK Kapoor, had told reporters that the payload of Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AVRAAM) carried only on the F-16 was seized from east of Rajouri within the Indian territory.

Despite India’s objections, the US on September 8 approved a $450 million F-16 fleet sustenance package to Pakistan to what they said for meeting counter terrorism threats. “Pakistan’s F-16 programme is an important part of a broader U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship, and this proposed sale will sustain Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future counter terrorism threats,” said US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price in defence of Biden administration’s latest move.

Collaboration with the US

Describing his talk as "warm" and "productive" with Austin, Rajnath Singh said, "We also discussed ways to strengthen technological and industrial collaboration and also explore cooperation in emerging and critical technologies". Secretary Austin, on his part, expressed support for India's defence modernisation programme, stated the defence ministry in a statement.

Growing convergence of strategic interests and enhanced defence and security cooperation also came up during their conversation, said the minister. The Raksha Mantri conveyed that he looked forward to welcoming Secretary Austin in India for the next Ministerial 2+2 Dialogue in 2023.

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