A day after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the US decision to provide a $450-million sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet was “not fooling anybody”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it is not a new programme.
Addressing a joint press conference with Jaishankar Tuesday, Blinken said it was a programme for F-16s that Pakistan already had, and it was Washington’s “obligation” to provide military equipment to ensure that the aircraft are maintained and sustained to bolster Islamabad’s capability to deal with “clear terrorist threats” from Al Qaeda and ISIS.
“It’s in no one’s interest that those threats be able to go forward with impunity,” he said.
“There are clear terrorism threats that continue to emanate from Pakistan itself, as well asfrom neighbouring countries and whether it is TTP that may be targeting Pakistan, whether it’s ISIS or whether it’s al-Qaeda, I think the threats are clear, well known and we all have an interest in making sure that we have the means to deal with them. And that’s what this is about,” he said.
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Blinken said the US always encourages its friends to resolve their differences through diplomacy and dialogue.
On Ukraine, Jaishankar disclosed that India had weighed with Russia on grain shipment from ports in the Black Sea.
Responding to questions, Jaishankar said, “We have taken the position publicly, confidentially, consistently, from February 24 that this conflict is not in anybody’s interest.”
“I remain in very active touch with a lot of my colleagues. Just as an example, during the grain shipment discussions in the Black Sea. At that time, we had been approached to weigh in with Russia at a particularly delicate moment, which we did,” he said.
“Right now, there are some issues… I had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Ukraine. He did mention some very specific concerns which were brought to my attention and they thought we could be of some use,” he said.
“I had, on a different set of issues, discussions with the UN Secretary General. He has been very active on a whole lot of specific concerns pertaining to the conflict. So it’s not necessarily the overarching peace… but even in the current scenario, other issues which we can solve or in some way mitigate or ameliorate. So there was some discussion with the UN Secretary General as well. I don’t think I can be too specific,” he said.
India, which has a USD 2000 per capita economy, is concerned over the spike in the price of oil due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and it is “breaking our back,” Jaishankar said.
He also met US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.
The two leaders “discussed new opportunities for bilateral defence industrial cooperation in support of India’s contributions as a regional security provider, including the launch of a new defence dialogue later this year as the United States and India work more closely together across space, cyber, artificial intelligence, and other technology areas,” the Pentagon said.