India and the U.S on Monday signed the bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that will give the militaries of both countries access to each other’s facilities for supplies and repairs. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter said in a joint statement that LEMOA “will facilitate additional opportunities for practical engagement and exchange.”
While it is an enabling agreement, LEMOA does not make logistical support automatic or obligatory for either party, the Minister and the Secretary said. LEMOA does not involve allowing military bases either, they noted. Each case will require individual clearance. The services or supplies accessed will be on a reimbursable basis as per the new pact.
LEMOA is one of the four ‘foundational agreements’ that the U.S. enters into with its defence partners. With LEMOA, India has signed two of the four. After the first one in 2002 – the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) -- the governments led by BJP’s A B Vajpayee and Congress’s Manmohan Singh were wary of signing the other three amid concerns that these may lock India into an uncomfortably close embrace with the U.S.
Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geospatial Intelligence are the two pending ones. Mr. Parrikar said no timeline has been set for discussing these.
A joint statement by the Minister and the Secretary said they both “discussed India’s “major defence partner” designation, announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in June.” “They agreed on the importance this framework will provide to facilitate innovative and advanced opportunities in defence technology and trade cooperation. To this end, the United States has agreed to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners,” the statement said.
Mr. Carter welcomed India’s membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime and reaffirmed the U.S. support for India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, said the statement.
The Minister and the Secretary also discussed cooperation on capabilities to augment India’s capacity for maritime domain awareness, but there was no mention of India’s request for Predator drones for this purpose, it said.
The designation of major defence partner allows defence trade and technology-sharing of a higher grade, Mr. Carter said. The designation also supported the two "important handshakes" between the two nations, he noted.
According to Mr. Carter, the first handshake is strategic, as the U.S. rebalances to the Asia-Pacific, and India extends its reach towards east, in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The second handshake, is technological and is demonstrated in the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, said Mr. Carter. “These two handshakes have brought our two militaries closer together,” he added.