In a recent development, the US Congress has halted Pakistani efforts to further purchase the F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Analysts are of the view that this move could have serious implications for the bilateral relationship at a sensitive time when Pakistan is engaged in a war and crushing terrorists in its territory. Therefore, most of them suggest that the proposed deal should not stall.
The deal has been put on hold by Congress while the Obama administration is reportedly attempting to reverse.
The proposed deal first came to notice in November 2015, with a formal Foreign Military Sales (FMS) notification, which was made in early December.
There is a general feeling that Republican Party is Pakistan-friendly. In a possible Democratic-majority Senate following the 2016 congressional elections, the F-16 deal would be even more unlikely.
“That the sale of the F-16s has met such opposition is somewhat surprising given that bilateral relations between the two countries have very much improved lately,” Rakisits said. “It has been particularly so since the Pakistan army launched its counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas in June 2014. The Pakistan army has been very effective in hunting down the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban fighters. The number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has dropped dramatically as a result.”
Rakisits continued: “President Obama and high-level officials recently hosted separately Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen Raheel Sharif. Both visits went very well.”
As a result, Rakisits said “such negative congressional reaction to the sale of the F-16s will come as a deep disappointment to officials in Islamabad.”
Pakistan’s disappointment is closely linked with events concerning Afghanistan.
“Not only will that be the case because the Pakistan military has been conducting operations against the Haqqani Network hiding in the tribal areas, as repeatedly asked to do so by the Obama administration for years, but also because it has been assisting in trying to get the Afghan peace process back on track. For example, the inaugural quadrilateral meeting of the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan on this issue was held in Islamabad on Monday.”
The topline inventory of the Pakistan Air Force is of the US origin. The maintenance and modernization efforts would almost certainly be negatively affected without an F-16 deal.