Strengthening Indo-US Relations
At Washington D.C.
The meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 27, 2013, with President Barack Obama has evoked considerable interest in India regarding its deliverables. TV anchors and strategic analysts, by and large, were of the view that nothing much was going to emerge from this third bilateral summit because even the US is aware that parliamentary elections are due in 2014 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s manoeuvrable space is limited due to domestic politics. However, notwithstanding the criticism at home let us examine the issue of defence cooperation which has received a fairly large space in the Joint Statement by both the leaders.
The Joint Statement referred to the increasing and more intensive bilateral defence cooperation, including trade and military exercises. The leaders endorsed a Joint Declaration on Defence Cooperation as a means of enhancing their partnership in defence technology transfer, joint research, co-development and co-production. As per the Joint Statement President Obama encouraged the further participation of US firms in partnering India’s efforts to enhance its defence capacities. However the Joint Statement does not clarify the context of the two of US mandatory technology safeguard agreements which threaten to adversely impact the transfer of advanced equipment and technologies. India’s hesitancy in confirming the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMoA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) forecloses the option of the US transferring advanced avionics and communication equipment, satellite navigational aids and other advanced technologies. Therefore such hurdles have to be crossed before we can move forward on the technology transfer and these issues require resolution. Moreover if the defence cooperation agreement was to take care of procedural problems why was no senior representative of the MoD present with this delegation? The basic question which remains unanswered is: “Is the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on board with this agreement?” Under US law both the above-mentioned pacts need bilateral confirmation to ensure client compliance with sensitive technology control transfers. In the past India has looked upon all such agreements with the US ‘cautiously’.
Kanwal Sibal, the former foreign secretary, has concerns with this agreement because of its adverse impact on India’s relations with Russia who has supplied more than 70 per cent of the current equipment held by the three services and has given sensitive technologies such as the nuclear submarine and BrahMos missile.
Meeting with Nawaz Sharif
Most analysts and political leaders of opposition parties, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party, were not in favour of the Indian Prime Minister meeting the Prime Minister of Pakistan at this stage when the developments leading up to the meeting – especially the violations of the line of control (LoC) – had provoked the opposition parties and the people in India, to mount considerable pressure on him to call it off. However, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, despite the pressures, went ahead with the meeting. He appreciated that the aim of the attackers was to derail the talks and therefore stood his ground. However, being sensitive to the recent LoC developments he insisted with his counterpart to rein in the hardline elements within Pakistan’s military establishment so that peace and tranquillity could be maintained along the LoC. This, he stressed, must be the first step to address other issues including trade, a liberal visa regime, Siachen, Sir Creek and Kashmir, and the reciprocal prime ministerial visits.
After the recent Samba incident in Jammu region, it had become clear that the planned meeting was in jeopardy, but having committed to the meeting, a cancellation was not desirable. Hence both leaders met and stated their piece and decided to leave the matter of LoC incidents to their respective Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) to sort out through military diplomacy. However, this is not going to be easy because the incidents on the LoC are part of the larger picture which involves resolution of the Kashmir problem which is a political issue. Moreover, the terrorist camps across the LoC in Pakistan occupied Kashmir are supported by the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)/ military and reining in the terrorists and dismantling their infrastructure will require political dialogue and hard bargaining followed by military procedures on the ground to ensure peace and this cannot be done through military diplomacy alone.
Dr Manmohan Singh meeting Prime Minister of Pakistan
Nawaz Sharif in New York