Strategic shift: India, US explore giving access to each other’s ports, bases

India-US base, port sharing

Signalling a strategic shift, India agreed to reopen talks with the US on a pact to allow each other access to their military bases and ports. Earlier, India was ambivalent about such a step to avoid conveying an impression of a military alliance.

The proposed pact, also called the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), will allow both sides to make changes to each other’s facilities in a way that it allows for easier conduct of military exercises.  It also allows expanding their scope and ambition. The main aim is to raise trust levels for the US to share more high-end technology with India, which is critical to spur military co-production between both countries.

Under the UPA government, the Defence Ministry had taken a hard line against signing any such agreement with the US. The reason given by the ministry was that any such pact would go against India’s posture of military neutrality, conveying in the process a more provocative message to China. This was also one of the major reasons why the UPA government never wanted a third country to be involved in Indo-US military exercises, particularly when conducted on Indian waters.

The US had agreed to keep this restricted to military exercises and for the conduct of any other ‘mutually agreed’ action just to address Indian concerns that it’s not misconstrued as a “blank cheque” to the US to use Indian bases for any operations it undertakes across the globe. It is now expected that US will present a fresh draft soon. 

This would make it easier for both sides to carry out joint exercises and operations together. However, the Indian side has been concerned about the access this may give the US to Indian systems. This, according to some analysts, works both ways as India would also get access to US systems. Security protocols can be developed between the two countries to facilitate this agreement.

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