Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment — An Over­all Assess­ment

It has been spe­cially drafted and de­signed for In­dia due to the ap­pre­hen­sions ex­pressed by the In­dian Gov­ern­ment

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

It has been spe­cially drafted and de­signed for In­dia due to the ap­pre­hen­sions ex­pressed by the In­dian Gov­ern­ment.

IN­DIA AND THE UNITED States have signed an im­por­tant lo­gis­tics agree­ment that will en­able forces of both the coun­tries to use each other’s bases for re­pair and re­plen­ish­ment of sup­plies. US De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter and De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar for­mally signed the Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment (LEMOA) on Au­gust 29, 2016.

What is LEMOA

This agree­ment tends to get con­fused with Lo­gis­tic Sup­port Agree­ment (LSA) but it is not the same as the LSA which has been signed by nearly 100 coun­tries some of who are seen as close mil­i­tary al­lies of the US. The LSA failed to pass muster with the two pre­vi­ous UPA regimes and even the Modi Gov­ern­ment on tak­ing over was sen­si­tive to its con­tent. As the In­dian Gov­ern­ment in­sisted on var­i­ous changes to ad­dress con­cerns of un­fet­tered ac­cess and US mil­i­tary bases on In­dian soil, the text was amended and the agree­ment was re­named LEMOA. It has been spe­cially drafted and de­signed for In­dia due to the ap­pre­hen­sions ex­pressed by the In­dian Gov­ern­ment.

It has taken more than 12 years for LEMOA to be­come a real­ity. LEMOA will en­able both the na­tions to ac­cess sup­plies, spare parts and ser­vices from each other’s land fa­cil­i­ties, air­bases and ports, which can then be re­im­bursed. How­ever, the sign­ing of the LEMOA does not give au­to­matic ac­cess to the use of mil­i­tary bases.

In April this year, when Carter vis­ited New Delhi, the two sides an­nounced an in-prin­ci­ple agree­ment on ink­ing the pact. Hec­tic ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the two sides had taken place be­fore that visit, with US of­fi­cials sub­mit­ting drafts of three foun­da­tional agree­ments. How­ever, In­dia chose to pro­ceed only on the lo­gis­tics agree­ment (LEMOA), de­fer­ring the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Se­cu­rity Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment (CISMOA) and a Ba­sic Ex­change and Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment for Geospa­tial In­for­ma­tion and Ser­vices Co­op­er­a­tion (BECA).

What Has Pushed In­dia into Sign­ing this Agree­ment?

Since the Cold War ended and the erst­while Soviet Union broke up the In­dian for­eign pol­icy has un­der­gone a com­plete makeover. Though In­dia’s nu­clear tests of 1998 brought it sharp re­buke from the United States and many other na­tions, things started im­prov­ing af­ter a visit from the then Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in 2000. The US-In­dia civil­ian nu­clear deal of 2008, for which In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh staked his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture, fur­ther changed things.

The United States also helped In­dia get a waiver from the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group (NSG), even though In­dia has not signed the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty (NPT) or the Com­pre­hen­sive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In­dia and the United States are in­creas­ingly con­cerned about Bei­jing’s grow­ing ag­gres­sive­ness in the South China Sea and beyond. In­dia’s an­noy­ance with China for pre­vent­ing In­dia’s at­tempts to des­ig­nate the Pak­istan-based terror out­fit Jaish-e-Mo­hammed’s chief Maulana Ma­sood Azhar as a ter­ror­ist at the UN is not hid­den. More­over China’s mil­i­tary in­clud­ing nu­clear as­sis­tance to Pak­istan has em­bold­ened Pak­istan in be­ing more bel­liger­ent to­wards In­dia as far as the proxy war in Jammu & Kash­mir is con­cerned. At the same time, China has been go­ing all out to woo coun­tries in In­dia’s neigh­bour­hood like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Mal­dives.

Bei­jing’s is­land build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the South China Sea and its de­ploy­ment of mis­sile bat­ter­ies on Woody Is­land in the South China Sea have set it on a col­li­sion course with the United States and its al­lies in the re­gion, like Ja­pan and the Philip­pines.

In 2015, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama be­came the first US Pres­i­dent to visit In­dia twice dur­ing his pres­i­dency when he was the chief guest at In­dia’s Repub­lic Day cel­e­bra­tions on Jan­uary 26. Dur­ing his visit, the two sides re­leased a joint state­ment where they af­firmed “the im­por­tance of safe­guard­ing mar­itime se­cu­rity and en­sur­ing free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over flight through­out the re­gion, es­pe­cially in the South China Sea.” This in it­self is very sig­nif­i­cant since New Delhi had stu­diously avoided get­ting en­tan­gled in the South China Sea im­broglio.

In the re­cent years, In­dia has be­come one of the big­gest pur­chasers of US mil­i­tary hard­ware, a sea change from the times when the coun­try used to source the ma­jor­ity of its de­fence needs from Russia.

In­dia now as­pires to play a greater role in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. In­dia de­sires to be a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (UNSC). In ad­di­tion, In­dia, under Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, has rapidly moved away from its tra­di­tional stance of non-align­ment to one of mul­ti­align­ment. By sign­ing the LEMOA, New Delhi comes closer strate­gi­cally to the US which will have a num­ber of spin-offs in terms of tech­nol­ogy trans­fer and mod­ern weaponry that In­dia is look­ing for apart gain­ing ac­cess to US mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties and closer mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion.

LEMOA will en­able in­crease in In­dia’s outreach to ar­eas that were not typ­i­cally within its reach. With one air­craft car­rier in op­er­a­tions, In­dia’s ca­pac­ity to un­der­take far sea op­er­a­tions has been fairly limited. Sign­ing LEMOA opens up op­por­tu­ni­ties such as gain­ing ac­cess to US mil­i­tary bases in Dji­bouti and Diego Gar­cia and these are in­deed sig­nif­i­cant gains.

What Is in it for the US?

The US has al­ready made strate­gic plans for re­bal­anc­ing its forces be­tween the At­lantic and the Pa­cific oceans. This strat­egy is one part of the much larger ‘pivot’ to Asia in­tended by Pres­i­dent Obama to meet a ris­ing China. The US Navy plans to de­ploy 60 per cent of its sur­face ships in the In­doPa­cific re­gion. In­stead of hav­ing to build new fa­cil­i­ties, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US has the ben­e­fit of sim­ple ar­range­ments for the sub­stan­tial In­dian fa­cil­i­ties.

Mar­itime col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween In­dia and the United States has been in­creas­ing. The com­man­der of US Pa­cific Com­mand, Ad­mi­ral Harry B. Har­ris, went on record to say that that Bei­jing was build­ing “a great wall of sand” in the South China Sea. At the Raisina Di­a­logue in In­dia in March this year, Har­ris floated the idea of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween In­dia, Ja­pan and Aus­tralia in the mar­itime realm. This is sim­i­lar to the ear­lier ‘Quadri­lat­eral Ini­tia­tive,’ which was rolled back in the light of protests from Bei­jing. In the mean­while In­dia’s ties with US al­lies in the re­gion, like Ja­pan and Aus­tralia, have also im­proved sub­stan­tially since then.

ISIS re­cently car­ried out a terror bomb­ing in Bangladesh. There is al­ways a dan­ger of ISIS mak­ing a sub­stan­tial ground ef­fort in this re­gion, not on the scale of their ‘caliphate’ in Syria and Iraq, but per­haps sim­i­lar to their ef­fort in Egyp­tian Si­nai and Libya? Hav­ing LEMOA makes it much sim­pler for Amer­i­can naval and air forces to re­fuel, re­sup­ply, and so forth. The US does not have ac­tual bases in In­dia. But LEMOA is a sim­ple way to use In­dia’s bases with­out sta­tion­ing any troops on the ground

De­fense Sec­re­tary Carter, in the joint news con­fer­ence on Au­gust 29, 2016, af­ter sign­ing the agree­ment, said the agree­ment would make joint op­er­a­tions be­tween their mil­i­taries lo­gis­ti­cally eas­ier and more ef­fi­cient. “What it does is make pos­si­ble and make eas­ier op­er­at­ing to­gether when we choose to. It doesn’t by it­self — those agree­ments — those are the things that the two gov­ern­ments would have to agree on a case by case ba­sis. But when they do agree, this is an agree­ment that makes it all go so much more smoothly and ef­fi­ciently,” he said. He fur­ther stated: “It is fully mu­tual. In other words, we grant one another com­pletely equal ac­cess and ease under this agree­ment. It’s not a bas­ing agree­ment of any kind, but it does make the lo­gis­tics of joint op­er­a­tions so much eas­ier and so much more ef­fi­cient.”

It does not give the US au­to­matic ac­cess to In­dian mil­i­tary bases or to lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port, but sim­ply smoothens ex­ist­ing prac­tices. The ad­van­tage is that though the US does cur­rently use In­dian mil­i­tary bases and lo­gis­tics — for ex­am­ple, dur­ing joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises — this is man­aged on a case by case ba­sis, which is sim­ply more cum­ber­some. LEMOA makes the process more reg­u­larised.

By sign­ing the LEMOA, New Delhi comes closer, strate­gi­cally, to the US which will have a num­ber of spin-offs in terms of tech­nol­ogy trans­fer and mod­ern weaponry that In­dia is look­ing for apart gain­ing ac­cess to US mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties and closer mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion

PHO­TO­GRAPH: US De­part­ment of State

US Sec­re­tary of De­fense Ash­ton Carter with In­dian De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar at the Pen­tagon on Au­gust 29, 2016

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