Bringing to an end years of dithering and sending clear signals of willingness on both sides to counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China, India and the United States have agreed in principle to sign “within weeks” or “months” a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMA) to provide supplies and fuel to each other’s armed forces from their bases.
This does not, however, mean stationing of American troops on Indian soil.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made this announcement after delegation-level talks between two sides on the final day of Carter’s three-day visit to India.
“It is a concept of logistics support and will be signed in months, if not weeks. It provides support for each other’s platform where they need fuel and supplies. We have agreed on the main clauses, and drafts will soon be exchanged between us,” Parrikar said.
“Nobody is talking of stationing troops on Indian soil. As and when a situation arises, like an earthquake or a natural disaster, that is when it is directed at. It will be applicable on a case-to-case basis but under the agreement,” Carter said.
India and the US have been negotiating the signing of Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) for a decade. A joint statement released by the Ministry of Defence said, “They announced their in-principle agreement to conclude a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, and to continue working toward(s) other facilitating agreements to enhance military cooperation and technology transfer.”
LEMA is one of three agreements, often referred to as foundational agreements. The other two are the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).
Both countries have also agreed to set up a new bilateral Maritime Security Dialogue between officials of respective defence and foreign ministries. They also decided to enhance ongoing Navy-to-Navy discussions to cover submarine-related issues, besides deepening cooperation in Maritime Domain Awareness by finalising a White Shipping Agreement.
Parrikar said Indian concerns over sale of US military equipment to Pakistan had been conveyed to Carter. Responding to a question about supply of F-16 fighter aircraft and other military equipment to Pakistan by the US to ostensibly fight terror while proclaiming a strategic handshake with India, Carter said “India and Pakistan are not two sides of the same relationship. They are different relations. F-16s are meant for military operations against terrorists in FATA. Counter-terrorism is the only purpose for which our equipment is intended. We take terror emanating from Pakistan very seriously.”
“Our relationship with Pakistan, which we value, is primarily directed towards counter-terrorism. Our principal security concern is terrorism originating from Pakistan. We have also suffered from terror emanating from Pakistan, especially in Afghanistan,” Carter said.
He said “India is a net security provider” in the region. Parrikar ruled out any immediate plan for joint patrols with the US in the region. “We have agreed to deepen various military exercises being carried out by us. Any other aspect will depend on mutually agreed necessities and requirement,” he said.
Carter also announced addition of two more pathfinder projects — Digital Helmet Mounted Displays and the Joint Biological Tactical Detection System — under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). He also said that the aircraft carrier working group has been a success and the US was looking to transfer flat deck technology to India for its new aircraft carrier. He expected these details to be finalised in the next couple of meetings.
The two sides also announced finalisation of four government-to-government project agreements in the area of science and technology cooperation: Atmospheric Sciences for High Energy Lasers, Cognitive Tools for Target Detection, Small Intelligent Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Blast and Blunt Traumatic Brain Injury.