India is all set to conclude the bilateral logistics agreement with Russia soon while the agreement with the U.K. is in the final stages of conclusion. The Navy has been the biggest beneficiary of these administrative arrangements, signed with several countries, improving operational turnaround and increasing inter-operability on the high seas.
“With Russia, the Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement (RELOS) is likely to be signed in a month or two while the one with the U.K. is in the final stages and should see conclusion soon,” a defence source said. Negotiations with a few more countries including Vietnam are in the preliminary stages, officials said.
India has signed several logistics agreements with all Quad countries, France, Singapore and South Korea beginning with the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the U.S. in 2016. The agreements are administrative arrangements facilitating access to military facilities for exchange of fuel and provisions on mutual agreement simplifying logistical support and increasing operational turnaround of the military when operating away from India.
The agreement with Russia is expected to be signed during the visit of Defence Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu in the next couple of months to co-chair the Inter-Governmental Commission meeting along with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh. “We also expect the signing of the RELOS and a Navy-to-Navy cooperation MoU,” envoy in Russia D.B. Venkatesh Varma told The Hindu recently.
Access to facilities in Arctic region
The RELOS, which has seen several delays, gives India access to Russian facilities in the Arctic region which is seeing increased global activity as new shipping routes open up and India’s own investments in the Russian Far East. In addition, it comes at a time when both nations are looking at significantly scaling up the already broad military-to-military cooperation.
While the two sides held the INDRA-NAVY 2021 in July and INDRA-ARMY 2021 in August, a contingent of 200 troops from the Army’s 3 Naga Regiment are currently in Russia for ZAPAD multinational exercise. Later this month, 200 soldiers from the Sikh LI Regiment will be in Russia for another multinational exercise Peace Mission.
Talking of the deepening cooperation, Mr. Varma had said they are looking at expanding the format of the exercises to make them “more complex, more sophisticated for exchange of experiences with regard to real time combat situations, including mobilisation of forces and their transportation across long distances, instant exercises, the impact of cyber, and the huge impact of drone technology on modern warfare”.
He said they were also looking at ideas for expanding cooperation in Central Asia and the “possibility of supplementing bilateral exercises with trilateral and multilateral ones — we are in discussion with the Russian side.”
Foundational agreements with U.S.
India has now signed all four foundational agreements with the US, LEMOA in 2016, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018 and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA)in 2020. While the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was signed a long time ago, an extension to it, the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), was signed in 2019.
All logistics agreements are reciprocal, a Navy source said adding, “With the U.S., we have been constantly engaging at various levels, exchanges, exercises and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) efforts, and all that has been under LEMOA.”
India now has access to encrypted communication systems from the U.S. under COMCASA and to geospatial information through BECA which cumulatively have been beneficial, officials said.
The agreements with the U.S. and those with Australia and Japan have been especially beneficial as they also operate several common military platforms along with India’s increasing share of U.S. origin platforms.
The Navy has also been signing maritime cooperation agreements with several countries including all Quad members and soon with Russia which also improve Maritime Domain Awareness among other things.