U.S. cozies up to India, Pakistan's archrival, for Afghan war

During a trip to India on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called on the world’s most populous democracy to bolster its training of Afghanistan’s army and police. Training those Afghan forces is a crucial step to (mostly) extracting the U.S. from the decade-long war. But so is getting Pakistan to step up on a range of issues, from re-opening trucking lanes for resupplying the war to cracking down on terrorism to brokering an accord with the Afghan Taliban.

“We welcome [India’s] playing a more active role in Afghanistan, a more active political and economic role,” an anonymous Defense Department official traveling with Panetta told reporters in India. The Wall Street Journal speculated that the move “may be designed to tweak Pakistan.” …

The U.S. is walking a delicate balance with the two nuclear South Asian powers, trying to develop and deepen relations with both. It hasn’t always worked: in 2004, President Bush approved a sale of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistanis, angering the Indians. Now the U.S. is trying to work closely with India, a rising global power, while still keeping its delicate alliance with Pakistan intact.