WASHINGTON - Antony Blinken, America’s top diplomat, stoutly defended the sale of F-16 aircraft maintenance package to Pakistan, as India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who had sharply criticised the Biden administration’s move a day earlier, listened silently while his US counterpart justified the deal saying it was aimed at bolstering the country’s capacity to fight terrorism. Standing next to Jaishankar at a press conference following their bilateral talks on Tuesday, Secretary of State Blinken was pointedly asked by Indian journalists whether the sale was justified as, they alleged, Pakistan had used F-16 aircraft against India. “To be very clear, this is a sustainment programme that Pakistan long had. These are not new planes, new systems, new weapons. It’s sustaining what they have. We have a responsibility and an obligation to whomever we provide military equipment to make sure that it’s maintained and sustained,” Blinken said. On Sunday, Jaishankar had said that the US argument that the $450 million F-16 fighter jets maintenance package to Pakistan for counter-terrorism was not fooling anybody. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari met Secretary Blinken on Monday, discussing a range of problems mainly flood related.
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