Ten paragraphs of the India-US Joint Statement, The United States and India: Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century, cover issues related to defence. Some of these are legacy issues finally nearing closure; others are new entrants in the bilateral agenda.
LEMOA or Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement is another name for Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), an agreement the US has with many of its allies. But this has been especially tailored for India, following negotiations for over a decade. The US gave a final draft in January, and a team of Pentagon lawyers flew to Delhi for negotiations in February. During Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter’s visit in April, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced an in-principle approval to sign the LEMOA, pending a final exchange of drafts. Those have now been exchanged, and the Joint Statement says the LEMOA text has been finalised by the two sides. It will be signed once India completes its process, which is mainly about approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security.
LEMOA allows each military to avail logistics support facilities — fuel, spare parts, mechanics, etc. — of the other while on joint training, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), and port calls. The agreement lays out the procedure for billing for these facilities as part of a larger accounting transaction, and details are contained in the clarifying protocols annexed to LEMOA.
Under LEMOA, while Indian logistics support will be available to the US military, Indian armed forces will benefit from access to a large number of US military bases globally, particularly while undertaking HADR missions in a diaspora crisis. It will allow India to respond promptly to emerging situations or humanitarian crises, and will expand Indian military’s operational environment globally.
Major Defence partner
The US has recognised India as a Major Defence Partner (MDP). This follows a long-standing Indian demand to provide predictability and transparency in the US system that approves transfer of military equipment and technology. MDP is not an established category, and this nomenclature has been especially created for India, because a legislative amendment to bring a change in India’s status would have been a long-drawn and difficult process.
By recognising India as an MDP, the White House is signalling its system to expedite Indian defence licences. Coupled with India’s entry into the MTCR, this is going to help India get modern defence technology from the US by moving to the approved category of the Arms Control List. But as it is neither a Presidential Directive nor a legislative amendment, the robustness of the process will be brought out by the outcomes.
White Shipping Agreement
The Statement welcomes the conclusion of a technical arrangement for sharing “White Shipping” information. The countries signed the White Shipping Agreement (WSA) last month, which enhances their maritime domain awareness and fits in with the Maritime Security Dialogue, the only 2+2 dialogue that India has with any country.
The WSA establishes an information network protocol that allows the two navies to exchange information about ships in their waters. Ships are usually classified into white (commercial ships), grey (military vessels), and black (illegal vessels). After signing the WSA, the two sides will be able to exchange information about white ships, which may not be known to the other side. The Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurgaon will be the nodal centre for WSA.
Information Exchange Annex
India is constructing an indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) at its shipyard in Cochin, and has plans for a second aircraft carrier (IAC-2) in the near future. For availing technologies available with the US, an agreement and protocol for sharing information — maintaining its confidentiality and integrity — was needed to be signed. The Information Exchange Annex is that protocol. Since then, a team of senior US Navy officials has visited the shipyard at Cochin last month to help with some issues in the IAC-1.