LEMOA Will Boost India-US Defence Ties For The Better

6 September 2016

Finally, after years of dilly-dallying, India and the United States have managed to sign the bilateral "Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement" (LEMOA), which will facilitate the provision of logistical support, supplies, and services between the American and Indian militaries on a reimbursable basis, besides providing a framework to govern them.


The two countries had agreed "in principle" on such an agreement during US defence secretary Ashton Carter's visit to Delhi in April this year; defence minister Manohar Parrikar's visit to the US last week has resulted in the final pact.

It is expected to help the two militaries coordinate better, including in exercises, and also allow the United States to more easily sell fuel or provide spare parts to the Indians.

The pact will emphasise on strengthening defence ties across many areas: from strategic and regional cooperation, to deepened military-to-military exchanges, to expanded collaboration on defence technology and innovation.

And with this the US-India defence ties have taken a major step towards consolidation. These are good times for India-US defence ties.

Carter himself has had a long standing interest in India and in strengthening closer India-American relations.

He was a strong supporter of the India-US nuclear deal and as deputy secretary of defence in 2011 he was the principal architect of the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) to help the flow of advanced American technology to India, a key Indian priority strongly resisted by Washington's defence bureaucracy.

He has taken this forward with the setting up of the India Rapid Reaction Cell (IRRC), the only country-specific cell in the Department of Defence, as part of the DTTI to fast-forward India-related acquisition issues.

Carter has emphasised Pentagon's "decision to change its mindset regarding technology transfer to India from a culture of 'presumptive no' to one of 'presumptive yes'" in the context of America's changing strategic priorities in the India-Pacific region.

And as he has suggested he has spent more time with Parrikar in little over a year than any of his other foreign counterparts, a relationship he attributed to "the new bonhomie" in India-US relations.

Many in India worry that the US wants to make India a junior partner in its regional alliance network, though Washington has been categorical that the logistics agreement did not allow for basing of US troops in India.

It is for logistic and humanitarian assistance for each other that are required for joint operation.

Carter himself has been explicit that India was not likely to be an exclusive partner of the United States as he suggested that "Indians are, like many others, also proud.

So they want to do things independently, and they want to do things their own way. They don't want to do things just with us. They want to do things with all that's fine.

So we're not looking for anything exclusive. But we are looking for as close a relationship and a stronger relationship as we can because it's geopolitically grounded."


This geopolitical grounding is provided by the rise of China. Beijing has shown no signs that it is willing to change or even moderate its anti-Delhi posture and has in fact taken an overtly antagonistic posture vis-à-vis India.

To counter the Chinese challenge, the United States wants to create a "network" of countries with "shared values, habits of cooperation, and compatible and complementary capabilities", which will expand the strategic reach of the participating countries, enable them to pool their resources to share the security burden, and, thereby, "help ensure the peace and stability in the region for years to come".

New Delhi need not become part of this network but it needs to articulate the requirement for new security architecture in Asia that can successfully take on the challenge posed by a rising and aggressive China.

During Parrikar's visit, he and his American counterpart mentioned the importance of the free flow of trade to both countries, underscoring their "shared interest in freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce as part of rule-based order in (the) India-Pacific".

Delhi and Washington are now focusing on maritime security with another round of maritime dialogue to follow the inaugural one held earlier this year in May.


India and the US have been striving to conclude a series of "foundational agreements" for years now.

But under the UPA, even the least controversial, the logistics one, could not move forward as then defence minister AK Antony, under the influence of the Left parties, became convinced about America's "malign" motives in pushing it through.

With the LEMOA now been finalised, the two nations can finally move forward with some confidence about the future of the India-US defence ties.

India is in the big league today and should start thinking big. The old Third World rhetoric doesn't - and would not do - justice to India's global aspirations.

The defence pact between the US and India would help the two countries in governing the use of each other's land, air and naval bases for repair and resupply, a step toward building defence ties as they seek to counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.

The Modi government is gradually shedding the traditional Indian strategic diffidence and has rightly concluded that strong defence ties with the US enhance our strategic autonomy rather than constraining.


Source : dailyo.in