U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter will be visiting India in April and focused efforts are under way to make progress in concluding the three outstanding defence agreements between the two countries, sources have told The Hindu .
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said during his visit to Washington in December 2015 that India was “in principle” agreeable to these pacts but some more clarity was required from the U.S. side. Both Indian and American officials had then said that progress could be expected in 2016.
Will follow Modi’s visit
Mr. Carter will be travelling to India within weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. on March 31 and April 1, to attend the nuclear security summit.
Mr. Carter’s visit to India will take place against the backdrop of continuing tensions in the South China Sea. India and the U.S. had in January 2015 announced a joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. U.S. continues to accuse China of “militarising” the region.
Needling by North Korea
The recent North Korean nuclear adventurism has prompted U.S. allies such as South Korea and Japan to seek higher U.S. presence in the region. The U.S. had repeatedly said in recent weeks that it would not hesitate to intervene to ensure the security of its Asian partners and now China has accused the U.S of militarising the region.
America has not specified what it expects India to do in East Asia, pointed out Richard M. Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in U.S. India Policy Studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. “The recent rumor of a joint patrol in the South China Sea certainly raised interest among the strategic community, though realistically it seems unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Termed ‘foundational agreements,’ the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial intelligence have been pending for at least a decade now and will be the focus during Mr. Carter’s visit.
The U.S. has signed these agreements with most of its strategic partners. Dominant sections within the political and strategic community in India have argued that signing of these agreements will lock the country in an irreversible embrace with the U.S. India and the U.S. have already signed one foundational agreement -- General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
Time to move forward on pacts
Indian sources told The Hindu that there is increasing acceptance within the military and strategic community that it is time to move forward on these agreements. “For India-U.S. defence cooperation to be effective and optimal, these agreements can be of great help,” one said.
“The political resistance from the Left that stopped these agreements in 2006 is not relevant now. Also arguments against these agreements have weakened as India-U.S. defence cooperation has grown by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. The time is just ripe to move forward,” Mr. Rossow said.
‘Parrikar deflects it to MEA’
Mr. Rossow, however, feels that Mr. Parrikar has not sufficiently pulled his weight in favour of the foundational agreements and cooperation with the U.S. in general according. “For the most part, when the strategic community tries to do something, he tends to deflect it to the MEA” he said.