In the final days of the Obama presidency, India and the US look set to take their defence ties onto a higher trajectory, with the defence ministers of the two countries agreeing in principle to conclude a crucial Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) in the coming months.
India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter held wide-ranging talks that firmed up plans to upgrade the defence relationship across the spectrum. The big takeaway was the joint push to fast-track negotiations for concluding the long-pending LSA that would enable the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest.
“We have agreed in principle that all the issues are resolved,” Mr Carter said at a joint press conference with Mr Parrikar in New Delhi on April 12. The two sides would finalize the text of an agreement in coming weeks, he added.
“As our engagement deepens, we need to develop practical mechanisms to facilitate such exchanges. In this context, Secretary Carter and I agreed in principle to conclude a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in the coming months,” Mr. Parrikar said.
“India and the US had agreed to two new projects under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). This included a tactical bio (logical) detection unit,” said Mr Carter. Some of the other major projects that India and US have been working towards under the DTTI include cooperation in the making of an aircraft carrier for India which will be capable of launching a fifth generation fighter aircraft.
“We have decided to take forward discussions under DTTI more aggressively on key areas such as jet engine technology. We will also continue our very useful and productive discussions on cooperation … on aircraft carriers,” said Mr Parrikar.
Focusing on the cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries, Mr Parrikar said that India has more joint exercises with the US than with any other country in the world. Clearing the air on the skepticism in India that LEMOA would facilitate basing of U.S. troops in India, Mr. Carter said: “It makes it more routine and automatic for us to operate together.”
Amid Beijing’s perceived assertiveness in the South China Sea and developments in the region, Mr. Parrikar stressed that the two sides have also decided to enhance the on-going Navy-to-Navy discussions to cover submarine-related issues.
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