The LEMOA embrace

The >signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) during Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to Washington is a significant step forward for India and the U.S. The agreement, which comes after more than a decade of negotiations, puts an automatic approvals process in place for the two militaries to share each other’s bases for various operations. These include port visits, joint exercises, joint training, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts; other uses are to be discussed on a case-by-case basis. The agreement will aid the sort of operations India has undertaken to rescue stranded Indians in conflict zones. Further, as the Indian military continues to expand its role to aid in disaster relief, as it did during the 2004 tsunami, it will benefit from easier access to America’s network of military bases around the world. The pact will also enhance the military’s capability to be an expeditionary force, at a time when Indian interests are distributed around the world with major investments planned both onshore and offshore in oilfields. The U.S., too, has required the help of India, as it did when emergency planes were refuelled in Delhi during the Nepal earthquake relief operation. As India and the U.S. explore plans for maritime cooperation in the Asia-Pacific as a part of the joint vision statement, LEMOA is going to add value.

LEMOA is not without its drawbacks, however, as is evident from the fact that it took so many years to agree upon. Even after the Centre had cleared the “foundational agreement”, as it is known, it took several months and at least four high-level meetings to finalise the text. A major reason for this was that although India embarked on closer defence ties with the U.S. years ago, there was no consensus or support within the establishment for an alliance of any kind, which the LEMOA had come to symbolise. As Mr. Parrikar pointed out during his joint appearance with U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, the finally negotiated text has nothing to do with setting up U.S. bases in India, and there is no “obligation” on either side to carry out any joint activity. Mr. Parrikar also mentioned a need to explain to the people the import of the agreement by bringing it into the public domain before the government considers discussions on the other foundational agreements the U.S. is keen to draw India into. The caution from Mr. Parrikar shows a nuanced understanding of the benefits and reservations about the Centre’s latest move, which is a welcome trend.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 2:30:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/The-LEMOA-embrace/article14598299.ece

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