New Delhi: The Pentagon has said that it has a “limited security partnership” with Pakistan, key comments in the backdrop of the recent Washington’s announcement of a $450 million package for Islamabad to sustain its F16 fleet. The Biden govt decision, which was announced earlier this month reverses the decision of the previous Trump govt and helps Pakistan sustain its F16 programme. Speaking to a select group of reporters, U.S. Asst Sec of Defense Dr Ely S. Ratner explained that the US has been engaging with its Indian counterparts on the issue “both in advance of the announcement..” and “during the ” mini 2+2 that happened earlier this month in Delhi. Dr Ely Ratner, along with Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State (South and Central Asian Affairs) were in Delhi for the India-U.S.A 2+2 Inter-sessional Dialogue with Indian diplomat Vani Rao. Rao is the Additional Secretary (Americas) in the Ministry of External Affairs.
Ratner said, “It is important to be as transparent as we could with Indian counterparts both in advance and during the decision and good opportunity for health exchange on both the US rationale for its limited security partnership with Pakistan and good opportunity to hear India’s concern about that”. In the aftermath of the US announcement on F16, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Indian Defence minister Rajnath Singh spoke to each other in which the latter raised New Delhi’s concerns. The package doesn’t include any upgrades.
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In response to the question, the Pentagon official also clarified that the package was not “designed as a message to India, as it relates to its relation to Russia.” He pointed out that the “decision inside US govt around F16 issue was made predicated on US interest associated with our defence partnership with Pakistan which is primarily focused on counter-terrorism and nuclear security”. US comments come even as Pakistani PM Shehbaz Sharif is in New York.
India and US defence ties have increased in the past few years significantly. In 2016, the defence relationship was designated as a Major Defence Partnership (MDP). Several defence agreements have been signed in recent years. These include Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Association (August 2016); Memorandum of Intent between the U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Indian Defense Innovation Organization – Innovation for Defense Excellence (2018); Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (September 2018); Industrial Security Agreement (December 2019); Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (October 2020).