New road map for Indo-US de­fence re­la­tion­ship

The new frame­work agree­ment pro­vides av­enues for high level strate­gic dis­cus­sions, con­tin­ued ex­changes be­tween armed forces of both coun­tries, and strength­en­ing of de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Ranjeet Ku­mar ]

The out­come of the much-touted visit ( June 2 to 4, 2015) of the US De­fense Sec­re­tary Dr Ash­ton Carter was on ex­pected lines. Both the coun­tries had agreed dur­ing the Re­pub­lic Day visit of the US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on the re­newal of the de­fence frame­work agree­ment for 10 more years, till 2025. And the fi­nal step of ink­ing the agree­ment (2015 frame­work for the In­dia-US de­fence re­la­tion­ship), which builds upon the pre­vi­ous frame­work and suc­cesses to guide the bi­lat­eral de­fence and strate­gic part­ner­ship for the next 10 years, was left to the visit of Dr Ash­ton Carter.

The visit was much more sig­nif­i­cant than putting the seal of ap­proval of both the De­fence Min­is­ters. The visit of the US De­fense Sec­re­tary was in it­self a sig­nal and mes­sage to the re­gional pow­ers es­pe­cially China, that both US and In­dia are slowly re­align­ing their poli­cies on Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. Both US and In­dia see con­ver­gence on Asia’s ‘Re­bal­anc­ing pol­icy’ and In­dia’s ‘Act East’ pol­icy. This is why dur­ing the visit of Pres­i­dent Obama a sep­a­rate state­ment on the joint vi­sion of Asia-Pa­cific re­gion was is­sued. Hence, the US side de­scribed Carter’s visit to In­dia as part of his fo­cus on the US re­bal­ance to Asia.

Though the US De­fense Sec­re­tary met the Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, the Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Ajit Do­val, the sub­stan­tive talks on deep­en­ing the de­fence co­op­er­a­tion was with his In­dian coun­ter­part Manohar Par­rikar. The joint press re­lease is­sued af­ter the bi­lat­eral del­e­ga­tion level talks con­vey the im­pres­sion that both coun­tries will jointly work on the ‘mo­bile elec­tric hy­brid power sources’ and the next gen­er­a­tion pro­tec­tive en­sem­bles un­der the De­fence Tech­nol­ogy and Trade ini­tia­tive (DTTI). The re­lease says that the de­fence frame­work agree­ment also recog­nises the trans­for­ma­tive na­ture of the DTTI. With the In­dian

NSA, Carter is re­ported to have dis­cussed the in­creas­ing ag­gres­sive­ness of China in South China Sea.

Both the coun­tries, as agreed dur­ing the visit of Pres­i­dent Obama, agreed to ex­pe­dite the dis­cus­sions to take for­ward the co­op­er­a­tion in jet en­gines, air­craft car­rier de­sign and con­struc­tion and other ar­eas. They also agreed to pur­sue co-de­vel­op­ment and co-pro­duc­tion of projects that will of­fer tan­gi­ble op­por­tu­ni­ties for Amer­i­can de­fence in­dus­try to build de­fence part­ner­ship with In­dian in­dus­tries in­clud­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing un­der the ‘Make In In­dia’ pro­gramme. Both the coun­tries had an­nounced four pathfinder projects – the Raven mini-un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles; roll-on/roll-off mis­sion mod­ules for C-130J Su­per Her­cules trans­port air­craft; mo­bile elec­tric hy­brid power sources; and, chem­i­cal bi­o­log­i­cal war­fare pro­tec­tion gear. The US is also re­ported to have of­fered the Scorpion light at­tack air­craft which can also be used as an in­ter­me­di­ate jet trainer.

The two coun­tries also agreed to con­tinue their ef­forts to en­hance bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in ar­eas of mu­tual in­ter­est, such as mar­itime se­cu­rity and knowl­edge part­ner­ship in the field of de­fence. The new frame­work agree­ment pro­vides av­enues for high level strate­gic dis­cus­sions, con­tin­ued ex­changes be­tween armed forces of both coun­tries, and strength­en­ing of de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The pre­vi­ous 10-year agree­ment be­tween In­dia and US inked in 2005, fa­cil­i­tated the trans­fer and sale of such high-end prod­ucts like the C-17 Globe­mas­ter, C-130 Her­cules, the Har­poon anti-ship mis­siles, the fire fin­der radar, etc, worth $10 bil­lion and the new frame­work agree­ment will fa­cil­i­tate even more. The In­dian De­fence Min­istry has al­ready cleared the im­port of 22 Apache at­tack he­li­copters, 16 heavy-lift Chi­nook he­li­copters and the joint pro­duc­tion of next gen­er­a­tion Javelin anti tank mis­siles. Many more weapon sys­tems will be in the pipeline.

It is not all hunky-dory in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. In­dia has ex­pressed its an­noy­ance over the US trans­fer of more US weapon sys­tems and ad­vanced weapon plat­forms like the F-16s and also the Har­poon mis­siles to Pak­istan. This gives the im­pres­sion that US wants to keep both the ri­vals in good hu­mour and con­tinue to keep the US war ma­chine live and tick­ing. Par­rikar had ex­pressed his re­sent­ment on US weapon sales to Pak­istan, be­fore the media, even be­fore he met Carter. Also, there are other hitches in fur­ther pur­su­ing the DTTI as the US wants In­dian sig­na­ture on three foun­da­tional agree­ments. The US has said so very of­ten that In­dian sig­na­tures on the agree­ments will fa­cil­i­tate the trans­fer of weapons and tech­nol­ogy to In­dian in­dus­tries. The agree­ments are – CISMOA (com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­ter­op­er­abil­ity and se­cu­rity mem­o­ran­dum of agree­ment); BECA (ba­sic ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment for geospa­tial co­op­er­a­tion) and lo­gis­tics sup­ply agree­ment (LSA). In­dia is avoid­ing sig­na­tures on these as they lay down hard con­di­tions on trans­fer and use of US supplied weapons and tech­nol­ogy. That means that if a war breaks out against In­dia, US will al­low the use of US ori­gin weapon sys­tems only if the ri­val coun­try is not an US ally. Also the US will con­duct reg­u­lar checks and ver­i­fi­ca­tion of such weapon sys­tems re­gard­ing its use.

How­ever, the US must have by now re­alised the com­pul­sions of the In­dian Gov­ern­ment in not ac­ced­ing to those three foun­da­tional agree­ments. In­dia would never want its strate­gic au­ton­omy to be sur­ren­dered be­fore the US ad­min­is­tra­tion. Con­sid­er­ing the sen­si­tive re­la­tions with China, In­dia also would not like to give an im­pres­sion that In­dia has fully al­lied with the Amer­i­cans. This is why In­dia has avoided the in­vi­ta­tion to Ja­pan in the forth­com­ing bi­lat­eral Mal­abar Naval ex­er­cises, though In­dia and the US have con­ducted very ad­vanced level bi­lat­eral ex­er­cises, which also en­com­passes the de­ploy­ment of nu­clear sub­marines and air­craft car­ri­ers. The Mal­abar ex­er­cises be­gan in 1992, in the af­ter­math of the end of Cold War in 1992. It con­tin­ued till 1997 and af­ter May 1998 Pokhran nu­clear ex­plo­sions, the US can­celled all the bi­lat­eral mil­i­tary ex­changes and even stopped the sale of weapon lo­cat­ing radar made by Hughes. How­ever things changed once again in bi­lat­eral diplo­matic and de­fence re­la­tions af­ter the 9/11 terror at­tack on the twin tow­ers of New York. The Amer­i­cans re­sumed not only the Mal­abar ex­er­cises but also en­gaged in bi­lat­eral air and army ex­er­cises. They also cleared the sale of weapon-lo­cat­ing radar in 2004 to the In­dian Army, the ab­sence of which was greatly felt dur­ing the Kargil war of 1999. The de­fence re­la­tion­ship con­tin­ued to deepen and the US has now emerged as ma­jor weapon sup­plier to In­dia.

Now un­der the re­newed frame­work for de­fence part­ner­ship, the ex­changes be­tween the armed forces will be deep­ened and widened. The new frame­work has charted a new road map for de­fence co­op­er­a­tion, which ranges from col­lab­o­ra­tion in mar­itime se­cu­rity, joint ex­er­cises and in­tel­li­gence shar­ing to co-de­vel­op­ment and co­pro­duc­tion of weapon sys­tems and tech­nolo­gies.

Carter has con­trib­uted a lot to strength­en­ing the bi­lat­eral de­fence part­ner­ships by spear­head­ing the DTTI mech­a­nism in his ear­lier ca­pac­ity as the Deputy Sec­re­tary of De­fence in the Pen­tagon. Now, in his role as the De­fence Sec­re­tary, he is ex­pected to push this even more strongly.

Be­fore ar­riv­ing in New Delhi, Carter had made a sig­nif­i­cant visit to the port city of Visakhapatnam, where the head­quar­ters of the Eastern Naval Com­mand is si­t­u­ated. In Visakhapatnam he also toured the INS Sahyadri, the in­dige­nous stealth frigate. Ac­cord­ing to one US of­fi­cial, Carter’s trip to Visakhapatnam show­cased his com­mit­ment to mar­itime se­cu­rity and the need for a re­gional se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture that cre­ates trans­parency and trust among re­gional pow­ers.

The US De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter calls on the Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in New Delhi on June 3, 2015

Min­is­ter for De­fence Manohar Par­rikar and the US De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter ex­chang­ing the signed doc­u­ment of the 2015 Frame­work for the In­dia – US De­fence Re­la­tion­ship, in New Delhi on June 3, 2015. The De­fence Sec­re­tary

G. Mo­han Ku­mar is also seen.

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