WASHINGTON: The US Defence Security Coopera­tion Agency has issued a certification saying that it’s in US national interest to sell eight F-16 fighter jets and related equipment to Pakistan.

The certification is needed to satisfy the US Congress where some key lawmakers are strongly opposing the sale. A national interest certification, however, is rarely challenged.

“This proposed sale contributes to US foreign policy objectives and national security goals by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner in South Asia,” says the certification sent to Congress with the sale notification.

“The proposed sale improves Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future security threats…and enhance(s) Pakistan’s ability to conduct counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations,” the agency informs the lawmakers.

It also clarifies that the proposed sale will not alter the basic military balance in the region (and) there will be no adverse impact on US defence readiness as a result of this.

The clarification rejects India’s claim that the proposed sale will alter military balance in South Asia and it also disregards objections raised during recent congressional debates that it will adversely affect US defence interests in Afghanistan where Washington still has thousands of troops.

According to the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, the eight F-16 fighter jets and related equipment will cost Pakistan $699.04 million.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry sent his department’s annual budget to Congress, proposing a financial assistance of $859.8m for Pakistan, which includes $265m for military hardware. This indicates that Pakistan will have to bear most of the costs for the F-16 deal.

On Friday, the US State Department informed Congress that it “has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Pakistan for F-16 Block 52 Aircraft, equipment, training, and logistics support.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2016

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