Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has joined the chorus of protest at Washington’s announcement that it will sell Pakistan eight F-16 fighters for $699 million, in the fighter’s most potent configuration called Block 50/52.
On Thursday, speaking to interviewer Karan Thapar on India Today TV, Parrikar termed the sale a “down” in the US-India relationship, stating: “I’m quite hurt by that and we have expressed our feelings very clearly to America.”
This came a day after Phil Shaw, the India head of Lockheed Martin, the company that builds the F-16, offered at the Singapore Air Show to “build the F-16 aircraft in India and to move our production line from the US to India with an Indian partner to help with the ‘Make in India’ process.”
Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources say the US proposal to establish an F-16 production line in India has been dead for some time now. The Pakistan sale only hammers a final nail into that proposal’s coffin.
The origin of the latest sale goes back to 2006, when Washington signed a $1.4 billion deal to supply 18 Block 50/52 F-16C/D fighters to the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), an order that was delivered in 2010-11. That contract included an option for 18 more aircraft. The eight new F-16s, about which the US Congress was notified last Friday, are being supplied under that options clause.