New Delhi: A visiting US official, currently in town to pave the way for a visit by US defence secretary Robert Gates sometime early next year, says that a Logistical Support Agreement (LSA) between India and the US could result in massive savings for the defence services of both nations. His comments come on the back of a surprise announcement by foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, last month in the Parliament that India was actively considering signing up for such an arrangement.
Mukherjee's statement marked an about-turn for the Government, as it had maintained all along that it was not interested in any such arrangement with the US.
The US official, who has not been named in the reports, has pointed out that the Indian Air Force could save a whopping $20 million in expenses at the Red Flag exercises to be held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, next year if such an agreement had been in place. Under such an agreement the two militaries can provide each other logistical support in cashless transactions that are balanced at the end of year.
The IAF will feature in the prestigious exercise for the first time.
According to the US official, with the LSA in place the US Government will host the IAF on the reciprocal understanding that when the USAF comes calling, the IAF foots the bill. According to the official, the LSA would cover not only the IAF's physical presence of aircraft and personnel during their stay at Nellis but also the journey to and from the base. With an LSA in place both countries provide similar facilities to each other's forces.
The agreement was first mooted during the time of the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime and was revived when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power in 2004.
In this context, the official pointed out that New Delhi paid hard cash when the Indian Navy evacuated upwards of 2,000 Indian and other sub-continental nationals from Lebanon during the height of the fighting between the Hezbollah and the Israeli defence forces last year. The US Forces replenished Indian vessels with fuel and other supplies for which huge amounts were paid. With an LSA, this would have occurred on a reciprocal basis.