Rocca defends F-16 sale

Himalayan News Service

Washington, June 16:

US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca has said the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan did not upset the regional military balance in South Asia. She also said that Washington was committed to a long-term relationship with Islamabad. Speaking before the House International Relations Committee yesterday, Rocca praised Pakistan as a “key ally” in the war on terrorism and said the country “is now headed in the right direction” on the path to becoming a modern, prosperous, democratic state. She alluded to the sale of F-16 aircraft to Islamabad, a step India opposed. “This sale sends a clear signal of our determination to stand by Pakistan for the long haul,” Rocca asserted. “The sale meets Pakistan’s legitimate defence needs, making Pakistan more secure without upsetting the current regional military balance.” Apart from rooting out terrorists, she credited Islamabad with helping build a stable and democratic Afghanistan and countering nuclear proliferation and cooperating in undoing scientist AQ Khan nuclear proliferation network. Washington expects Pakistan’s 2005 local and 2007 general elections to be free and fair, she emphasised.