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US encourages for productive Pakistan-India relations

Pakistan, which like India is nuclear-armed, has relied heavily on Chinese-made jets, but the F-16s remain the most effective and advanced in its fleet.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late on Monday he had discussed with his Pakistani counterpart what he called managing a responsible relationship with neighbouring India.

Blinken’s comments came after India’s defence and foreign ministers opposed a U.S. decision to provide a support package of about $450 million for Pakistan’s fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets.

Pakistan, which like India is nuclear-armed, has relied heavily on Chinese-made jets, but the F-16s remain the most effective and advanced in its fleet.

“In our discussions today, we talked about the importance of managing a responsible relationship with India,” Blinken said after meeting Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, without elaborating.

Asked about the F-16 deal, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the United States had independent relations with India and Pakistan.

“The relationship we have with India stands on its own; the relationship we have with Pakistan stands on its own,” Price told a news conference. “We also want to do everything we can to see to it that these neighbours have relations with one another that are as constructive as can be possible.”

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought three wars, mainly over the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Read more: US ready to sell F-16 equipment to Pakistan

In 2019, they engaged in an aerial battle during which India said it had shot down a Pakistani F-16 after one of its own jets was brought down. Pakistan denied that one of its F-16s was downed.

People-to-people contact between the countries, formed by a split of British India in 1947, virtually ended after the 2019 clashes.

Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk