The second issue was the potential of misuse of F-16s to deliver nuclear bombs against India

New Delhi: The United States had assured India that Pakistan won’t use F-16s and AMRAAMs (advanced medium range air-to-air missiles) for offensive purposes as the US had an effective end-user monitoring process and the systems could be made ineffective if they were misused.

The assurances were made in 2015 when then defence minister Manohar Parrikar strongly raised the issue of supply of AMRAAMs and fighter jets to Pakistan with his US counterpart Ashton Carter, top government sources told ET.

India had lobbied hard against the sale of eight additional advanced versions of F-16s to Pakistan and had succeeded in blocking the sale after the US senate voted against subsidising the procurement using taxpayer’s money.

The sources have told ET that the offensive use of F-16s on February 27 when the Pakistani air force attempted to strike military targets in Nowshera has been raised strongly with Washington, in the light of assurances given in 2015.

As reported by ET, the AMRAAMs used in a first strike mode by Pakistan targeted at least five Indian fighter jets, with one — the MiG-21 being flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman — being shot down. The rest of the fighters, Su-30MKIs and the Mirage-2000s, dodged the incoming missiles, while Abhinandan managed to shoot down an F-16 across the LoC.

Sources who were part of the discussions between Parrikar and Carter in 2015 said two specific issues were raised in discussions that took place in New Delhi and Washington. “One of the issues was that the AMRAAMs have a long range and they cannot be used against terrorists but would be targeted at us,” a three-star rank officer who was part of the discussions told ET.

Carter responded to this by assuring that the missiles will not be used against India and the US has a mechanism to make them ineffective if they are used during war. “If they use it for an offensive purpose, they can interfere with the mechanism and make them ineffective,” the officer, who was involved in the talks, told ET.

The second issue was the potential of misuse of F-16s to deliver nuclear bombs against India. “An assurance was given that in case of a potential nuclear attack, the US can disable the aircraft. That, if they use nukes, they won’t be able to operate the F-16s,” the officer said. 

After efforts to get the US administration to ban the subsidised sale of eight of the advanced Block 52 version of F-16s to Pakistan in 2015, India had lobbied at the US Senate against the deal. Sources said India was successful in convincing members of the US Senate that giving subsidies for the deal would not send the right message. The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, said in March 2016: “Prohibiting a taxpayer subsidy sends a message to Pakistan that it needs to change its behaviour, but preventing the purchase of US aircraft would do more harm than good by paving the way for countries like Russia and China to sell to Pakistan while also inhibiting greater cooperation on counter terrorism.”