Washington, September 26: India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has slammed the Biden administration’s proposal to provide $450 million in spare parts and services to Pakistani F-16s, saying no one is fools claims that these high-performance fighter jets are intended solely for counter-terrorism operations.
And, on a separate issue, the minister left the door open to a possible role for India in mediating the war between Ukraine and Russia. Mexico proposed to the UN Security Council last week that a committee of heads of state and government, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis, could help UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to end the war.
Jaishankar kicked off a four-day visit to Washington DC with a one-of-a-kind public interaction for an Indian external affairs minister with the Native American community: a question-and-answer session during which he answered unfiltered questions from the audience, which, he should note, is largely made up of old fans and new fans — the moderator, for example, repeatedly called him a “rockstar,” and his every response was met with several applause, the most excited rising. External affairs tours typically limit these Q&As to reporters and the public at think tank events.
The minister answered a range of questions ranging from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Pakistan to Kashmir, education, health and his own experience as a longtime diplomat.
“Quite honestly, it’s a relationship that ultimately hasn’t served Pakistan well, nor (does) it serve American interests,” the minister said in response to the spare F-16s, which put some Indian d ‘America. He framed his criticism of the package in the overall context of a bilateral relationship, which he said has been mutually dysfunctional for Pakistan and the United States.
“It’s really up to the United States today to reflect…the merits of that relationship,” Jaishankar added, asking what he wants with this package.
“Somebody say I’m doing this because it’s all contained in the fight against terrorism and so when you talk about an aircraft like a capability of an F-16 where everyone knows, you know where they are deployed and what is their use,” the minister said, and added, “You are not fooling anyone by saying these things.
The Biden administration informed the US Congress earlier in September that it was offering to provide $450 million worth of spare parts and services to Pakistani American-made F-16s for their “support”. No new capabilities or munitions are part of the package, which it has been stated will also not alter the military balance in the region.
The US administration claimed in the notification that these F-16s were intended for counterterrorism operations. But Pakistan has also used them for other purposes, most recently in a dogfight with Indian fighter jets in February 2019. India later said it shot down one of the deployed F-16s.
“If I were to talk to an American decision-maker, I would really argue (that) look at what you are doing,” Jaishankar added.
“Forget us. It’s actually not good for you what you’re doing, think about history, look at the last 20 years.
Jaishankar will have the opportunity to convey his advice to many US policy makers he will meet in the coming days, including his US counterpart Antony Blinken.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh had lodged a formal protest with the United States expressing India’s concern in a phone call with his counterpart Lloyd Austen, but it is clear that the concern sparked by the proposal is deeply rooted in the Modi government.
Jaishankar’s response to a question about a possible role for India in mediating to end the war between Ukraine and Russia was expertly worded. He didn’t rule it out. But he also clarified that India was not campaigning for it.
“If we can help in any way, we will obviously be responsible enough to do so,” the minister said, adding, “I think the participants know that the rest of the world knows. Beyond Of that, what happens is in the realm of diplomacy, so I can’t say anything.
Mexico has proposed that Modi mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Foreign Minister Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubon officially suggested it during a meeting of the UN Security Council debate on Ukraine on Thursday in New York.
“Based on its pacifist vocation, Mexico believes that the international community must now channel its best efforts to achieve peace,” Casaubon said.
“In this regard, I would like to share with you the proposal of the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to strengthen the mediation efforts of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, through the formation of a committee for dialogue and peace in Ukraine. with the participation of other Heads of State and Government, including, if possible, His Excellency Narendra Modi and His Holiness Pope Francis.