The US administration is preparing to sell eight new F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan to bolster a tenuous partnership, The New York Times newspaper quoted senior American officials as saying.
The decision comes ahead of President Barack Obama’s meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which is to be dominated by the president’s decision to extend the American troop presence in Afghanistan, the paper reported. Obama is trying to balance pressure on Pakistan with signs that the US still considers it a vital ally.
Congress was notified just days ago about the proposed sale of the additional fighters, although it is not clear if the White House plans to announce the sale of the aircraft during the visit of the prime minister who handed over three dossiers to US State Secretary John Kerry about the Indian involvement in subversive activities in Pakistan.
The new aircraft would add to Pakistan’s already sizable force of fighter jets — it has more than 70 F-16s and dozens of French and Chinese attack aircraft. But perhaps of equal importance to supporters and critics alike is the symbolic value of the sale to an ally whose relationship with the US has been marked by long stretches of acrimony in recent years.