Special Correspondent

New Delhi does not have such agreement with any other country

Verification clause can be invoked only when there are complaints of misuse

Another point of negotiation is once standard text is signed, it will remain frozen

NEW DELHI: India and the United States are on the verge of finalising a standard “End User Verification Agreement” (EUVA), central to all defence deals between the two countries, instead of negotiating separate agreements for procurements.

The U.S. is keen that besides the EUVA, India also signs the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), say sources in the Defence Ministry.

After having exchanged drafts on three occasions, the last one during the February Bangalore air show, the text is being vetted in an effort to get it through during the June 10-13 visit of U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns.

“While we understand the U.S. concern for their law, the assets we have cannot be intrusively inspected without reason,” was how officials in the Ministry characterised this sensitive aspect of the agreement.

As is central in all draft agreements, it is the issue of getting the text in a form agreeable to both sides is the key. The clauses include how to define “onsite inspection” and how and where such verification, if required, could be conducted.

The officials say that while India offered to provide inventory and accountability records of the sensitive equipment to be mounted on assets acquired by it, the Americans want that besides these two records, the clauses specify opportunity to physically inspect the equipment.

India does not have such verification agreement with any other country. It provides a certificate that the equipment procured was being used for the purpose it was intended to.

The officials say that while ideally India does not want to go in for such an agreement, policymakers are aware that the U.S insistence is required under its laws. India does not want to bind itself to a document that keeps a window open for future administrations to use it either to hold up defence supplies or halt product support.

“The reality is how much trust you have. Are we opening up to a possible hold up of defence supplies and product support in future or reading too much into it,” said officials privy to negotiations.

The Defence Ministry is wary of allowing inspections at bases or forward areas, where some of the equipment could be in use.

In any case, the sources say, the verification clause could be invoked only if there are credible complaints of misuse. It is not some kind of periodic certification requirement.

Another point of negotiation is that once the standard text is signed, it will remain frozen and cannot be subjected to any future amendments to the U.S. laws with retrospective effect.

India has already signed verification agreements before the supply of equipment on troop-landing ship INS Jalashwa (USS Trenton) and Boeing Business Jets for VVIP travel.

The sources say it is not that the entire assets will be subjected to verification and only sensitive technology put on these platforms fall under its ambit.

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