India and U.S. inch closer to deal on logistics support

The only remaining concern is ‘What happens in the case of war?’

December 26, 2015 01:21 am | Updated March 24, 2016 12:04 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Three major military pacts which could elevate Indo-U.S. relations to a new strategic level are being pursued afresh under the Narendra Modi regime after being shelved under the UPA government due to political compulsions.

Of these, both sides are one step short of reaching an understanding on the Logistic Support Agreement (LSA), which gives U.S. forces access to Indian bases for logistics support and vice versa.

Foundational basis

The three “foundational agreements” guide U.S. high technology sales to other countries.

In addition to the LSA, these include Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

A senior defence official involved in the discussions told The Hindu that the issue had been discussed during Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s recent visit to the U.S. and as far as the LSA is concerned it is possible to reach an agreement and India has only one concern for which it sought a clarification from the U.S. “As for LSA there is only one concern. What happens in the case of war?” he said.

Clarifications

“We do not support some actions and do not want to be part of it. Also we will not extend support for war with friendly countries. We asked the U.S. clarifications on how to deal with it,” he said. It could be done on a case by case basis.

On the other two agreements the CISMOA and BECA, however, India has deeper concerns as it involves giving the U.S. access to India’s encrypted systems. Indian armed forces have expressed reservations in this regard.

“We share multi-country platforms and certain information cannot be shared. So we have concerns as each word in the text can make a difference,” the official noted.

Revised draft

India has asked the U.S. to submit a revised draft of the agreements which would then be studied in detail. “It should be on an equal footing,” the official added.

With the government embarking on joint development and production projects for high technology weapons under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), the U.S. has been pressing for a rethink on the issue.

While the Indian and the U.S. officials maintain that the DTTI cooperation is different from the foundational agreements, a senior State Department official Kenneth Handelman, Deputy Assistant Secretary (Defence Trade Controls) had in the past said, “DTTI has progressed in the absence of the foundational agreements but DTTI is a vehicle for much broader security relationship… At some point the foundational agreements are going to be an issue…”

U.S. officials had underscored on several occasions that these agreements are an administrative arrangement for sharing certain encrypted communications and taking forward high technology development in future, the objective of the DTTI.

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