Rajnath conveys to US counterpart India’s concerns over sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet

File Photo of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh
File Photo of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh

New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday conveyed to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin India’s concerns over Washington’s decision to provide sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet.

Singh apprised Austin about India’s concerns on Washington’s plans to provide the package worth USD 450 million during a telephonic conversation.

“I conveyed India’s concern at the recent US decision to provide sustenance package for Pakistan’s F-16 fleet,” the defence minister said on Twitter.

The US has planned to provide Foreign Military Sales (FMS) worth USD 450 million for hardware, software and spares for the F-16 fighter fleet of Pakistan.

“Had a warm and productive telephonic conversation with the US Secretary of Defence, Mr. Lloyd Austin. We discussed growing convergence of strategic interests and enhanced defence & security cooperation,” Singh said.

“We also discussed ways to strengthen technological and industrial collaboration and also explore cooperation in emerging and critical technologies,” he said.

A readout by the US Defence Department said Secretary Austin congratulated Singh on the commissioning of the INS Vikrant, noting the significance of the event for India’s role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific.

“In light of the evolving regional security environment, the two defence leaders committed to expanding information-sharing and logistics cooperation as the US and Indian militaries operate and coordinate more closely together,” it said.

In a statement, the defence ministry described the talks as “fruitful”.

“They reviewed the multi-faceted India-US defence cooperation and reiterated mutual commitment to further strengthen military-to-military ties,” it said.

The ministry said Secretary Austin expressed support for India’s defence modernisation programme and looked forward to further strengthening India-US defence industrial and technology collaboration.

The readout by the US Defence Department said Austin discussed with Singh a range of recent security developments of shared interest, including in East Asia, the Indian Ocean Region, and beyond.

Their call came on the heels of a productive set of engagements in New Delhi last week for the 2+2 Intersessional and Maritime Security Dialogues, it said.

Secretary Austin expressed his support for additional mid-voyage repairs of US Navy ships in India following the historic visit of the USNS Charles Drew to Chennai in August.

“They agreed to initiate a dialogue later this year to deepen bilateral collaboration in space, cyber, artificial intelligence, and other new defence domains,” it said.

The readout said Austin and Singh highlighted their commitment to strengthening defence technology and industrial cooperation to support India’s rise as an industry leader and regional security provider.

“They also underscored the value of advancing cooperation through the Quad partnership to sustain regional peace, stability, and prosperity, including through coordinated humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” it said.

“The two leaders committed to an ambitious set of initiatives leading up to the 2+2 Ministerial in India early next year, as the United States and India work to swiftly expand the depth and breadth of their cooperation,” it added.

The readout said Singh and Austin concluded the call by reaffirming the centrality of the US-India defence partnership to their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

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