Foundational agreements won’t compromise India’s security: U.S.

May 16, 2015 07:06 am | Updated September 02, 2016 04:03 pm IST - Washington

Three “foundational” defence sector agreements between the U.S. and India, which are pending signatures from both sides, have the potential to enhance bilateral cooperation in this area but do not pose a risk to India’s strategic security in any form, according to defence officials in Washington.

Speaking to select Indian media, officials noted that Washington and New Delhi have already signed one such foundational agreement, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) yet three others have not been signed although U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is preparing to make his first trip in that role to India in June.

The outstanding agreements, which the Pentagon describes as “routine” instruments that the U.S. uses to promote military cooperation with partner-nations, are the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial intelligence.

Despite the “foundational” label attached to the agreements, “They are not prerequisites to bilateral defence cooperation with the U.S.,” officials said, and there was not likely to be any major push towards getting India to sign them.

However, they are far from immaterial, it is apparent, given the examples of the benefits that could potential arise if the remaining agreements were also signed.

Some agreements, officials said, may have made it simpler or more cost-effective for U.S. aircraft seeking to refuel in India en route to provide disaster recovery assistance in Nepal following the recent earthquake there.

In their absence, however, ad-hoc measures, usually in the form of a single commercial transaction between the two sides, would be necessary for such a refuelling facility to be provided.

On the positive side, there were benefits to having the GSOMIA in place, officials said, and in the case of the tender for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal, the GSOMIA made it possible to provide missile systems as well as aircraft survivability hardware for the U.S. F-16 and F-18 aircraft, even though the two platforms were not ultimately selected.

While progress with these agreements may not be at the top of the agenda when Mr. Carter arrives in India, the U.S. side hoped that there would be no further “inaccurate” reporting on the agreements, particularly suggestions that they allowed U.S. soldiers unfettered access to Indian military facility, that they would make American personnel immune from Indian law, or that they gave the U.S. visibility into India’s classified intelligence systems.

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