In a significant decision that could have far-reaching implications for India’s military posture, India and the U.S. have agreed “in principle” on a logistics support agreement — the first proposed in 2004 and resisted by the UPA government for a decade — that would make it easier for both militaries to share each other’s facilities.
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was the highlight of U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter’s three-day visit to India, which began in Goa on Sunday.
It ended on Monday evening with a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Besides LEMOA, Mr. Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar announced initiatives to strengthen the growing strategic partnership.
“Secretary Carter and I agreed in principle to conclude a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in the coming months,” Mr. Parrikar said. “The draft of LEMOA will be ready in a month, if not weeks.”
Denying that LEMOA would facilitate basing of U.S. troops in India, Mr. Carter said: “It makes it more routine and automatic for us to operate together.” The three “foundational agreements” guide the U.S. high technology cooperation with other countries.
Besides LEMOA (traditionally called the Logistics Support Agreement), the others are Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
Talks did not make much progress under the UPA government because of the fierce opposition from the then Defence Minister A.K. Antony as the agreements were perceived too intrusive and would be seen as compromising on India’s nonaligned stance.
The UPA government was also cautious about the sensitivities of both Russia and China, though New Delhi was moving closer to the U.S. However, under Mr. Modi, New Delhi has been taking firm steps, indicating its willingness to forge a closer strategic relationship with Washington.
The two countries also agreed to set up a new Maritime Security Dialogue “between officials from our respective Defence and External Affairs Ministries” and conclude an agreement to improve maritime domain awareness with an arrangement to improve sharing of data on commercial shipping traffic.
“Both countries will also deepen cooperation in Maritime Domain Awareness by finalising a ‘White Shipping’ Agreement,” he added.
With China in mind, the joint statement reiterated the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over-flight throughout the region, including “in the South China Sea.”
In this context, the two countries agreed to start Navy-to-Navy discussions on submarine safety and anti-submarine warfare.