Bill Roggio (of The Fourth Rail and Winds of Change) was kind enough to email me this link to NTI titled "India Quietly Welcomes U.S. Decision to Sell Arms to Both South Asian Nuclear Rivals", a non-profit group formed by Ted Turner (of CNN fame) and former Sen. Sam Nunn to help draw attention to nuclear weapons proliferation.
"Although it has publicly criticized the U.S. decision to resume fighter aircraft sales to Pakistan, India is quietly welcoming the shift in U.S. policy to allow much greater defense cooperation, experts said yesterday (see GSN, March 28).
The Bush administration announced Friday that it would end a long-standing ban and allow Pakistan to purchase F-16 fighters. The ban had been imposed in 1990 as part of U.S. policy to discourage nuclear proliferation. (Pearson/Chakravarty, Agence France-Presse I/Sify.com, March 29).
'We see [the sale] as unnecessary,' Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee said yesterday. 'The reasons and arguments for this step are not valid as one doesn’t need F-16s and such lethal weapons to fight terrorism. These are for full-fledged war.' (Agence France-Presse II, March 28)
The new U.S. policy, however, also includes a willingness to sell India advanced combat aircraft, including the F-18 fighter, and to provide other technologies as well, including command and control systems, early warning radars and missile defenses, Agence France-Presse reported today.
Indian officials have publicly said only that they would consider the U.S. offer, but, 'Even India, with a long tradition of making foreign policy self-goals, will find it hard to say ‘no’ to the extraordinary offer the Bush administration has put on the table — a promise to assist it in becoming a world power in return for resumption of arms sales to Pakistan,' said longtime South Asian commentator C. Raja Mohan.
Mohan expressed doubt that India was genuinely concerned about seeing more F-16s in Pakistan.
'Today, no one in India can credibly argue that additional F-16s in Pakistan’s hands will alter the military balance in South Asia,' he said.
India has already acquired more-advanced Su-30 [See DEL COPE India 2004 post regarding] combat aircraft from Russia and is shopping for additional aircraft from other countries as well, AFP reported (Agence France-Presse I).
Under the deal announced Friday, Pakistan is expected to purchase at least 25 F-16C and F-16D aircraft and to upgrade about 28 older versions already in its arsenal, the Financial Times reported today.
The deal would be worth about $1 billion, according to Pakistani officials (Bokhari/Marcelo, Financial Times, March 29)."
While the article quotes an analyst and not a government official, I think it lends support to the DEL prediction that Secretary Rice cut a deal with the Indian government on her last trip that was too good to pass up, and that the F-16 deal with Pakistan is part of the overall US plan. If India does buy US aircraft, whether it is F-16s, F-18s, or a combination of both, it will be a sign that the US has struck an alliance with India to contain China.