India’s relations with the United States are on a strong enough foundation that they won’t get shaken unduly by the move to equip Pakistan with eight state-of-the-art F-16s. But the Obama administration’s move comes at a awkward time, when Pakistan’s complicity in sponsoring terror attacks is exposed almost daily, including by David Coleman Headley in video testimony to an Indian court. Such insensitivity is nothing new for the US, which considers Pakistani goodwill vital as it disengages from Afghanistan by pushing a pact between the Afghan Taliban and the Kabul government. But such support also flies in the face of Pakistan transgressing all norms by encouraging strikes even against US servicemen, openly backing the insurgent Haqqani Network operating in the AfPak border region.
The irony of adding the F-16s to Pakistan’s arsenal is that, as even pro-Pakistan hawks in the US are aware, these advanced fighters can’t fight terrorists on the ground, even though the Pakistan Air Force has the dubious record of pounding Balochistan with its bombers. The F-16s will only tilt the subcontinent’s military balance, in which Pakistan has the strategic advantage of playing one superpower against the other, that being neighbour China. India’s move to summon the US ambassador to South Block only reflects the resentment in New Delhi over the US game of patting India on the back while continuing to supply arms and ammunition to Pakistan. It is no secret that Washington can often be a Janus-faced friend, and India has known this for decades now.