New Delhi: The visit next week to New Delhi by America's undersecretary of state for political affairs William Burns is going to be critical not just for setting the agenda for future bilateral relationship for both countries, but also for resolving some ticklish issues related to defence cooperation. An ''End User Verification Agreement'' (EUVA), central to all sensitive defence deals between the two countries, has been hanging fire for a long time and it is expected that it may now be resolved to the satisfaction of both countries.
So far, both countries have negotiating separate agreements for procurements.
Apart from EUVA, the US is also keen that India clear agreements such as the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA).
As far as EUVA is concerned both nations have exchanged drafts on three occasions, and the text is now being prepared for final clearance during the 10-13 June visit William Burns, who as undersecretary of state for political affairs is the highest ranking career officer in the state department.
The EUVA is a particularly ticklish issue for both countries as American law demands that such an agreement be in place before any supply of sensitive defence equipment to another country should take place. The provisions of the agreement, as they stand, are not acceptable to the Indian side as they are intrusive in nature and impinge upon sovereign rights.
Matters now need to be resolved to the satisfaction of both countries.
While the Indian side are willing to respect the American position that no significant defence cooperation between both countries is possible without such an agreement in place, they too are clear that Indian defence assets cannot be intrusively inspected without reason.
For the moment it is important for both nations to agree upon the text which will go into the draft agreement. It is important to define clauses such as ''onsite inspection'' and how and where such verification, if required, could be conducted.
According to defence ministry sources while India has offered to provide inventory and accountability records of the sensitive equipment to be acquired by it from the US, the American side are also demanding that they have the opportunity to physically inspect the equipment besides being supplied with records'
The matter is particularly ticklish for India as it does not have similar verification agreements with any other country and merely provides a certificate that the equipment procured was being used for the purpose it was intended to.
The Indian side, having burned its fingers more than once with US sanctions, is not interested in finding itself bound to a document that allows any future administration, or even the current one for that matter, to use such an agreement to hold up defence supplies or halt product support.
The country's armed forces will also not be interested in allowing inspections at bases or forward areas, where such equipment is very likely going to be deployed.