NEW DELHI — India and the US are poised to enter the next level of defense and strategic ties following an agreement in principle to share logistics.
The US has been pressing New Delhi to sign the agreement for the last ten 10 years. It was termed along with two other agreements as "foundation agreements."
However, the agreement is a closer version of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), according to a source in the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD), and it is not the general LSA that the US signs with other countries.
"As our engagement deepens, we need to develop practical mechanisms to facilitate such exchanges," Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, according to an MoD release from Tuesday. "In this context, [US Defense] Secretary [Ash] Carter and I agreed in principle to conclude a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement in the coming months."
MoD sources say the agreement Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) will be tailored for India and will not be a general Logistics Support Agreement (LSA).
The announcement that the two countries have reached consensus on logistics was made at a joint new conference during Carter's visit to India.
The two countries agreed in principle to sign an agreement on providing logistics but have yet to finalize the draft of the agreement, an MoD official said. There was no date given on when the signing would take place. The MoD official added that the draft for the agreement would take care of India's concerns but refused to mention specific topics of concern.
A formal agreement, when inked, will access supplies, spare parts and services from each other's land facilities, air bases and ports, which can then be reimbursed, according to the MoD source, who added that the signing of the LEMOA does not provide automatic access to the use of military bases.
The U.S. administration has been wanting India to sign three agreements to deepen the already existing India-US military relationship. The three agreements are the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); the LSA; and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial intelligence. India has provided logistics assistance to the US in the past on a case-by-case basis, which included providing refueling facilities to American aircraft during the Gulf War in 2001.
Analysts say signing the CISMOA would enable India to get encrypted communications equipment and systems allowing military commanders to communicate with aircraft and ships through a secure network. The BECA would provide India with topographical and aeronautical data and products, which will aid navigation and targeting.
However, some Indian military officials do not support the CISMOA and BECA. One Indian Army official said the agreements would provide the US with access to communications about Indian military operations.
No MoD official would discuss whether there is agreement in principle on CISMOA and BECA.
"An agreement in principle on logistics would move India closer to [the] US as a strategic partner," said Nitin Mehta, a defense analyst. India and the US have decided to co-produce weapons on technology sharing basis.
A joint statement issued by the MoD said: "They (Ashton Carter and Manohar Parrikar) discussed the priorities for the coming year in defense ties, as well as specific steps both sides will take to pursue those priorities. These included expanding collaboration under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI); Make in India efforts of Government of India; new opportunities to deepen cooperation in maritime security and Maritime Domain Awareness; military-to-military relations; the knowledge partnership in the field of defense; and regional and international security matters of mutual interest."