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"Concern over F-16s for Pakistan"

Thursday 21 April 2005

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Government on Wednesday said it was ``concerned’’ and ``disappointed’’ at the proposed supply of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan by the United States, but would not consider it a ``diplomatic failure’’ on the part of India.

At the same time, it informed the Rajya Sabha that it was looking into reports of alleged payment of commission on Indian defence deals by a South African arms manufacturer. ``We will look into this,’’ the Defence Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said during question hour.

To a question raised by Sushma Swaraj (BJP) on the proposed sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan, he said India was concerned as the supply would increase the capability of the Pakistan Air Force and would have to be adequately factored into India’s operational plans and modernisation programme. The IAF did not have F-16 aircraft in its inventory.

Mr. Mukherjee said the U.S. Government had cleared the American manufacturers of F-16 and F-18 aircraft to respond to an Indian request for proposal for medium multi-role combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force when it is issued. It had also offered to meet India’s needs in other areas of advanced defence technologies and enter into production arrangements for defence-related equipment with Indian defence industries.

``All relevant factors are kept in mind while arriving at any decision regarding modernisation,’’ he said.

Answering supplementaries, he said the Government was ``disappointed’’ because when India was to have a composite dialogue with Pakistan there was this ``sudden’’ U.S. decision to arm Pakistan with such weapons that were not used to fight terrorism but used for full-fledged war.

``The Government is concerned because we will now have to match capacity. Defence preparedness is to match the capacity of the adversary. Naturally we will have to divert resources. This is always a concern, though not diplomatic failure.’’

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