US senator: F-16 sale to Pak badly timed, ‘complicates’ India-US ties

WASHINGTON: Top Republican senator John McCain on Thursday acknowledged the “timing” of the announcement on the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan was “really bad” and that the Obama administration needs to explain the reason behind its decision which “complicates” India-US relations.

At a time, when the US is pushing hard to improve its defence partnership along with India as part of its effort to maintain its dominance in the Asia Pacific region, such a move tends to “complicate” India-US ties, McCain, Chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters at the Defence Writers Group.

“I think that the future of Asia, if we want to have actually the kind of influence that we always had and a deterrence to the Chinese behaviour is a pretty close partnership between the United States and India. Which by the way the F-16 issue complicates that,” McCain said.

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has actually put a hold on the administration’s notification to the US Congress early this month on the proposed sale of F-16s to Pakistan.

“This is really a tough one for me and for a lot of people. I think the timing was really bad on this issue,” McCain said on his position on the sale of F-16s to Pakistan.

He said that he would certainly have actually “pretty seen and kicked off” this over it to the next administration.

“It is not that far away. You know that F-16 issue has actually been hanging out there for four-five years. I think we could have actually waited a little longer,” he said.
The Arizona Senator said he has actually talked to Corker about it.
“I have actually recommended to him or her that he has actually a hearing on the Foreign Relations Committee. I love my colleagues, but there is not one in 20 that is really focused on this issue. So we really do need some Congressional interest in this to make a decision,” he observed.
“Frankly I am pretty conflicted on this issue. I would certainly like to see an argument made by the administration pretty than just an announcement. The two countries that are pretty important to us are India and Pakistan,” he said.
“So it is not pretty often that I duck on an issue, but honestly, I am still thinking about it as to what we need to do. I think, the most effective way to do it is to have actually a hearing in the foreign relations committee which is their area of responsibility. I think Corker is going to do that,” McCain said.