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India Caucus slams F-16s for Pak

Source: PTI
December 13, 2004 14:34 IST
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The newly-elected Democratic Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India has come out against the proposed sale of F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan and has written to members of the US House of Representatives asking them to oppose the move.

Gary Ackerman, along with Congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, who is likely to be elected as the Republican Co-Chair of the Caucus, has also circulated the text of a proposed letter to US President George W Bush stating that the sale will squander an opportunity to continue building the strong relationship that the United States needs with India.

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Referring to India as "a growing world power with which we have common strategic interests," the letter said "if the US provides F-16s to Pakistan, planes inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons, the message will be that our true strategic partner in South Asia is Pakistan," which will undermine long-term US strategic interests in South Asia.

Urging Bush not to grant the licence for the sale, the letter said while economic assistance to Pakistan was necessary, recent arms sales had "moved further and further from the requirements of the war on terror."

"Since neither al Qaeda nor the remnants of the Taliban have submarines, armoured fighting vehicles or airplanes, we are gravely concerned that the systems being provided to Pakistan are intended to be used against Indian capabilities," the two Congress members wrote.

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The letter said that the Bush Administration had worked "extraordinarily hard" to forge a "new and different" relationship with India.

"The many steps that you have taken in recent years to give substance to the US-India relationship, from cooperation on counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics to joint military exercises have all been aimed at creating the trust and closeness that the world's oldest and the world's largest democracies should have".

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It further stated that "although the common strategic interests between India and the United States are apparent, and Indian public opinion regarding the United States is positive, bilateral cooperation and joint efforts to address the strategic issues that face both nations is not automatic."

The sale of advanced fighter aircraft to Pakistan will squander an opportunity to continue building the "strong relationship" the United States needs with India, the letter addressed to Bush added.

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