USA has confirmed that it is actively negotiating with India for inking three basic defence agreements. Commander of US Navy Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, testifying to the House Committee of Armed Forces, has said “We were moving out aggressively in technical field with DTTI (Defense Technology and Trade Initiative). There are some what we call foundational agreements that have to be executed with partner nations in order to move, ‘to the next level’. And we are working with India on the signing of those foundational agreements.”
Continuing his brief about the agreements, he further testified saying “One of those is the LSA — Logistics Support Agreement — which allows us to do the cross servicing — acquisition cross servicing, for example. Another one is called the CISMOA (Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement), and it involves communications security so that we can be assured that India will protect our communications as we would protect theirs.”
Regarding his trip to India that is scheduled for the early part of next week, the Admiral said “So these are foundation agreements that we enact with every country we work with. We have not gotten to the point of signing them with India, but I think we’re close. We’re closer now than we ever have been, and I’m encouraged by what I’m hearing from my colleagues in India, and I look forward to having that discussion with them when I go there next week,”
This testimony by the Admiral has confirmed earlier reports of India and USA negotiating to conclude the strategic LSA, CISMOA and BECA agreements. In an effort to elevate their relationships from a buyer-seller status, India and USA have agreed upon DTTI. Under this India and USA are expected to co-develop and jointly produce various strategic systems. USA says the inking of these agreements is the key in fortifying the DTTI.
Admiral Harris has been in close relationships with India and it is under his Pacific command that is in-charge of the Indo-Asia region. India’s Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, had visited Haiti – the Pacific command’s headquarters during his USA visit.
India and USA have been negotiating to conclude these deals for over a decade and half. Successive Indian governments have rejected to commit themselves to the program citing various geopolitical issues. USA considers these agreements as a foundation to nurture the relationships to new levels. The NDA-led government is keen on engaging US contractors in arming its forces. It is strongly believed that, during Parrikar’s visit to USA, India had asked US to submit a fresh proposal after addressing India’s concerns.
USA is extremely keen on making India ink the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA). This will allow US forces to use Indian navy and air bases. In accordance to the agreement both the nations will provide logistics support to each other’s naval ships and aircrafts. India and USA will supplement each other’s forces with fuel, ration supplies, spares and even ammunitions. This logistics support will be a cashless service. The countries will maintain a credit system.
In an effort to outweigh the notion of a military alliance, India has confirmed that the US forces will not be allowed to use its bases for mounting any military operations. India’s logistics support will also be suspended when US forces are involved in a war in the region.
Another deal USA is keen on concluding with India is the Communication and Information Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA). This agreement allows Indian and US forces to gain access to each other’s encrypted communication systems. USA claims this move will drastically boost the interoperability levels between US and Indian forces. Citing CISMOA clauses, USA had stripped the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft off key military equipments before delivery to India. This included GPS systems, communication systems involving VHF and UHF modules and EW systems.
USA claims the inking of the CISMOA is a win-win situation for both the nations. A top US official says “With the conclusion of the agreement, India will realize the fullest potential of weaponry platforms it operates.” The Boeing manufactured P8I, C-17 and C-130 J aircraft have been listed as examples in the past. USA is backing the CISMOA agreement given its potential to boost the interoperability levels. USA says this interoperability is crucial to mount multination humanitarian missions in the region.
USA is also demanding that India signs the Basic Exchange and Co-operation Agreement (BEC). This agreement will allow the nations to co-operate in sharing geo-spatial data. Geo-Spatial data is the numerical information about a physical location. This allows the forces to find out the GPS co-ordinates about a particular location. This data is crucial when joint strikes are called for.
India is weighing every concern before committing itself to the agreements. A major concern is regarding China’s reaction to US forces moving closer to its backyard. India’s move to open its bases to American forces will surely be met with resistance by Russia – India’s closest ally. China has said an agreement between USA and India in this regard will introduce the concept of military alliances in the region.
India says any assistance to US forces will be considered on a case to case basis and no support would be extended to assets involved in combat. There has been profound thinking about allowing USA to use Indian communication systems. Since, India uses a chunk of Russian communication equipments, it is crucial to count in Russia’s consent about these deals.
The Indian government is weighing in every concern that has been raised in the past. Armed forces have made clear that there would be nothing much to gain from the agreements but have raised no concerns of their own. UPA government in the past had declined to commit itself to the agreements citing geopolitical reasons. The present government, however, has said the agreements would go through if concerns raised by India are answered. The countries may perhaps make drastic progress on the agreements when Ashton Carter, USA’s Secretary for Defense arrives to India in April.