India, US sign defence logistics agreement

30 August 2016

India and the US on Monday signed an agreement to facilitate the use each other's land, air and naval bases for repair and resupply, as a further step to strengthen defence ties.

The two countries also signed two other pacts that would allow for secure communications and the exchange of nautical and other data.

Signing of the logistics agreement will make it easier for Indian and US navies support each other in joint operations and exercises and when providing humanitarian assistance, US defence secretary Ash Carter and India's defence minister Manohar Parrikar said at a joint press conference.

The agreement will "make logistics of joint operations so much easier and so much more efficient," said Carter. 

The agreement will allow Indian and US navies to better support each other in joint military exercises and humanitarian operations, Parrikar said.

The bilateral agreement will also help counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.

"The US has agreed to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners," Parrikar stated in the joint statement.

The agreement is an important development in India-US defence relationship as it brings more certainty in their bilateral defence engagement. Both leaders, however, made it clear that the logistics agreement did not provide for basing of US troops in India.

The agreement basically concerns military assets and communication facilities and is exclusive of defence personnel. This is so because of the political sensitivity attached to stationing of personnel.

Washington has for long been seeking logistics support agreement with India as part of its efforts to deepen and widen security cooperation in the region in the light of China asserting its maritime claims in the South China Sea and beyond.

India has been concerned over closer cooperation with US and committing its bases to hosting US troops, or drawing it into a military alliance with the United States that would undermine its traditional non-alliance principle.

The US has made closer military ties with India a priority, and Carter had established a special unit within the Pentagon last year to promote cooperation with India. The two countries had also reached an agreement "in principle" in April, but had yet to finalise the details.

The logistics agreement was signed during Parrikar's sixth visit to Washington in a series of interactions between the two top defence officials.

The signing of the logistics agreement indicates the priority the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi places on a closer defence relationship with the United States, said Benjamin Schwartz, until last year the India country director at the Pentagon.

"For years, there has been tremendous misinformation put out into the Indian press about these agreements," said Schwartz, now with the US-India Business Council, which promotes trade ties between the two countries.

"What the signing of this shows is that the Modi government is willing to take and suffer the short-term political criticism of signing these things for the longer-term benefit of building the defence relationship with the United States."

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