Two top American defence officials will be in Delhi this week ahead of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to the US next week.
The US Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, and US Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, will be in India to hold discussions with top Indian defence officials before Parrikar’s visit.
“My visit is a part of what we had both agreed upon when (US Defence Secretary) Ash Carter had come here in April, that we would keep meeting each other regularly so that issues that need to be progressed will get an impetus,” said Parrikar about his US visit from August 29 to September 1.
The Defence Ministry has officially refused to comment on the agenda of Parrikar’s visit, but there is a strong probability that India and the US could sign the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) during the trip. Ministry sources said Parrikar would sign the agreement, if it is ready by then.
India and the US had announced the signing of LEMOA during Carter’s visit in April, and it was reiterated during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June.
After the finalisation of the draft agreement between the two sides, the LEMOA has to be processed through inter-ministerial consultations and approved by the cabinet before being signed.
LEMOA is a version of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) that the US signs with its NATO allies, but it has been tailor-made for India.
It will allow India and the US to use each other’s military bases for supplies, maintenance and refuelling under a book-debit payment system. So far, each of these transactions has to be cleared on a case-to-case basis and payments made separately in each case.
India can deny the US the use of its facilities for an operational mission Delhi is not comfortable with, sources said.