WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Thursday that the F-16 programme was an important part of the broader United States-Pakistan bilateral relationship, as the US Senate did not object to the proposed $450 million deal with Islamabad.

“The proposed sale will sustain Pakistan’s capability to meet current and future counterterrorism threats by maintaining its F-16 fleet,” a State Department official told Dawn. The proposed sale would also “ensure Pakistan retains interoperability with the US and partner forces in ongoing counterterrorism efforts and in preparation for future contingency operations,” the US official added.

The international media reported on Wednesday that the United States was all set to provide $450 million F-16 sustainment package to Pakistan as “there has been no objection to the deal from the Senate within the mandatory 30-day notice period”.

On Sept 7, the State Department notified the US Congress — through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — about the Biden Administration’s decision to offer this deal to Pakistan under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme.

“Upon such notification, the Congress has 30 calendar days during which the sale may be reviewed,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Robert Menendez told the Senate days later on Sept 13.

Diplomatic sources in Washington told Dawn that Congress “does not need to take action to positively approve” a proposed deal. After the completion of the mandatory 30-day period, the deal would be considered approved, the sources said.

The next step is for Pakistan to conclude a Letter of Offer and Acceptance with the US Department of Defence. If and/or when an agreement is concluded, it usually results in the US Department of Defence issuing a contract several months later. The delivery timeline for the deal is determined by both governments.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2022

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