Deep­en­ing part­ner­ship – In­dia and US

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

The fourth meet­ing (April 11, 2016) within a span of one year be­tween In­dian De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar and US Sec­re­tary of De­fense Ash­ton Carter has re­sulted in un­prece­dented an­nounce­ment from In­dian De­fence Min­is­ter that both the coun­tries have agreed in prin­ci­ple to sign the much dis­cussed and ne­go­ti­ated Lo­gis­tics Sup­port Agree­ment (LSA), al­beit with a dif­fer­ent name called Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment (LEMOA). This an­nounce­ment has shown that some­thing se­ri­ous was cook­ing up be­tween the two De­fence Min­is­ters of once es­tranged democ­ra­cies dur­ing last one year. How­ever, the fast chang­ing geopol­i­tics of the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion is en­cour­ag­ing the largest and old­est democ­ra­cies to come closer and jointly safe­guard their strate­gic in­ter­ests in the face of in­creas­ing ag­gres­sive­ness from the Chi­nese in the South China Sea.

In fact the US side has been press­ing In­dia to agree on three foun­da­tional agree­ments since last one decade but the In­dian UPA Govern­ment did not show in­ter­est in pur­su­ing th­ese agree­ments, as th­ese would have firmly put In­dia as al­liance part­ner of the US. Be­sides the Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Agree­ment the US side has been in­sist­ing on the early con­clu­sion of the CISMOA (Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in­ter­op­er­abil­ity and Se­cu­rity Mem­o­ran­dum Agree­ment) and BECA (Ba­sic Ex­change and Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment), but the cur­rent Naren­dra Modi regime also did not al­low them to be men­tioned in the joint state­ment. How­ever, sources in the US Em­bassy in New Delhi main­tain that the US side will con­tinue to in­sist on the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the CISMOA and the BECA for geospa­tial co­op­er­a­tion. The three foun­da­tional agree­ments will strongly bind the two na­tions in de­fence co­op­er­a­tion but In­dian side re­frained from go­ing that far.

How­ever, the talks re­sulted in a joint state­ment which re­vealed the deep­en­ing of strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween the two coun­tries. Ac­cord-

ing to the Joint State­ment the two De­fence Min­is­ters re­viewed the im­por­tant steps taken since the sign­ing of the new Frame­work for the US-In­dia De­fence Re­la­tion­ship last June to deepen bi­lat­eral de­fence ties. Carter and Par­rikar also dis­cussed the pri­or­i­ties for the com­ing year in de­fence ties as well as spe­cific steps both sides will take to pur­sue those pri­or­i­ties. Th­ese in­cluded ex­pand­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion un­der the De­fence Trade and Tech­nol­ogy Ini­tia­tive (DTTI) and ‘Make in In­dia’ ef­forts of the In­dian Govern­ment, new op­por­tu­ni­ties to deepen co­op­er­a­tion in mar­itime se­cu­rity and mar­itime do­main aware­ness , mil­i­tary to mil­i­tary re­la­tions, the knowl­edge part­ner­ship in the field of de­fence and re­gional and in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity mat­ters of mu­tual in­ter­est.

Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials, the two coun­tries are plan­ning across the armed forces for greater com­plex­ity in their mil­i­tary en­gage­ments and ex­er­cises which in­cludes plans for more ad­vanced mar­itime ex­er­cises. In fact the year 2016 will prove to be one of the most in­tense ex­changes in re­cent years. Af­ter a gap of many years In­dian Navy has been per­mit­ted to par­tic­i­pate in the RIMPAC ex­er­cises where as the In­dian Air Force was in­structed to par­tic­i­pate in the mul­ti­lat­eral Red Flag ex­er­cises held this month.

Af­ter the talks, Par­rikar said, “Our dis­cus­sions, spread over the past three days, have been marked by char­ac­ter­is­tic warmth, can­dour and a sense of mu­tual pur­pose. I am con­fi­dent that the In­di­aUS re­la­tion­ship will be one of the key global part­ner­ships of this cen­tury. De­fence co­op­er­a­tion is a cen­tral pil­lar of In­dia’s multi-faceted re­la­tion­ship with the US. A stronger In­dia-US part­ner­ship will pro­mote peace, sta­bil­ity and progress in our re­gion and the world.”

Par­rikar de­scribed Carter as the ar­chi­tect of the In­dia-US De­fence Trade and Tech­nol­ogy ini­tia­tive, which has pro­vided an un­prece­dented plat­form for the two coun­tries to strengthen bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion in cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies and to ad­dress pro­ce­dural de­lays in de­ci­sion mak­ing. Both the De­fence Min­is­ters de­cided to take for­ward dis­cus­sions un­der DTTI more ag­gres­sively on key ar­eas such as jet en­gine tech­nol­ogy. Sig­nif­i­cant progress has al­ready been noted in the co­op­er­a­tion in the frame­work of the joint work­ing group on air­craft car­ri­ers. Both sides also reached an un­der­stand­ing to con­clude an in­for­ma­tion ex­change an­nex (IEA) to en­hance data and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing spe­cific to air­craft car­ri­ers. In sup­port of ‘Make in In­dia’ the US side shared two pro­pos­als to bol­ster In­dia’s suite of fighter air­craft for con­sid­er­a­tion of the Govern­ment of In­dia. Sources privy to the talks said that US side has of­fered the Boe­ing twin-en­gine F-18 Su­per Hor­nets, which can be utilised both by the In­dian Air Force and the In­dian Navy as the F-18s are ca­pa­ble of fly­ing from the deck of an air­craft car­rier also.

Both the De­fence Min­is­ters also agreed to ex­pand the na­ture and scope of DTTI by in­tro­duc­ing new and more am­bi­tious projects for mu­tual col­lab­o­ra­tion. In­ter­est­ingly the two De­fence Min­is­ters noted the strong com­ple­men­tar­i­ties be­tween ‘Make in In­dia’ ini­tia­tive and the DTTI. In this con­text both the De­fence Min­is­ters de­cided to per­son­ally fa­cil­i­tate syn­er­gies be­tween In­dian and US com­pa­nies in high tech­nol­ogy ar­eas and in par­tic­u­lar to pro­mote par­tic­i­pa­tion of In­dian com­pa­nies in global sup­ply chains. Both the De­fence Min­is­ters re­viewed the progress and re­it­er­ated their com­mit­ment to pur­sue co-de­vel­op­ment and co-pro­duc­tion of ad­vanced de­fence ar­ti­cles un­der the DTTI. In this con­text, the two sides agreed to ini­ti­ate two new DTTI pathfinder projects on dig­i­tal hel­met mounted dis­plays and the joint bi­o­log­i­cal tac­ti­cal de­tec­tion sys­tem. Both the De­fence Min­is­ters com­mended the on­go­ing dis­cus­sions at the Jet En­gine Tech­nol­ogy Joint Work­ing Group ( JETJWG) and the Joint Work­ing Group on Air­craft Car­rier Tech­nol­ogy Co­op­er­a­tion ( JWGACTC). They agreed to work to­wards greater co­op­er­a­tion in the field of cut­ting-edge de­fence tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing deep­en­ing con­sul­ta­tions on air­craft car­rier de­sign and oper­a­tions and jet en­gine tech­nol­ogy.

In the back­ground of Chi­nese ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour in South China Sea and naval for­ays in the In­dian Ocean re­gion, a very sig­nif­i­cant de­ci­sion was taken to set up a new bi­lat­eral mar­itime se­cu­rity di­a­logue to be con­ducted be­tween the se­nior of­fi­cials of the re­spec­tive De­fence and For­eign Af­fairs Min­istries. In this con­text the de­ci­sion was also an­nounced to en­hance on­go­ing navy to navy dis­cus­sions to cover sub­ma­rine re­lated is­sues. Both coun­tries will also deepen co­op­er­a­tion in the Mar­itime Do­main Aware­ness by fi­nal­is­ing a White Ship­ping Agree­ment. This is rel­e­vant in the con­text of the con­cerns ex­pressed in the Joint State­ment re­gard­ing the cur­rent state of Af­fairs in South China Sea. The Joint state­ment reaf­firmed, “the im­por­tance of safe­guard­ing mar­itime se­cu­rity and en­sur­ing free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over flight through­out the re­gion, in­clud­ing in the South China Sea. They vowed their sup­port for a rules­based or­der and re­gional se­cu­rity ar­chi­tec­ture con­ducive to peace and pros­per­ity in the Asia-Pa­cific and In­dian Ocean, and em­pha­sized their com­mit­ment to work­ing to­gether and with other na­tions to en­sure the se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity that have been ben­e­fi­cial to the Asia-Pa­cific for decades.”

In fact, im­me­di­ately af­ter the end of Cold War in 1992, the US Pa­cific Com­man­der Lt Gen­eral Kick­lighter had vis­ited In­dia, which re­sulted in the set­ting up of Mal­abar bi­lat­eral naval ex­er­cise struc­ture, which has now seen ex­pan­sion with the per­ma­nent in­clu­sion of Ja­pan. Now in last two-and-half decades, in spite of a brief sus­pen­sion in de­fence ex­changes in the af­ter­math of In­dian nu­clear test in Pokha­ran in May 1998 in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the two armed forces have be­come broad based and in­tense, which are now the sig­nif­i­cant as­pect of In­dia US bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. To­day In­dia has more joint ex­er­cises with the United States than any other country in the world. Af­ter a few years gap, the In­dian armed forces will be tak­ing part in mul­ti­lat­eral ex­er­cises hosted by US forces like the RIMPAC naval ex­er­cises and the Red Flag air ex­er­cises. Ac­cord­ing to Par­rikar this deep­en­ing of en­gage­ment has ne­ces­si­tated the need to de­velop mech­a­nisms to fa­cil­i­tate such ex­changes, un­der the um­brella of Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment, which has been agreed in prin­ci­ple and to be inked within a few months. The two coun­tries have al­ready agreed on the need to have mu­tu­ally agreed mem­o­ran­dums to form the ba­sis of such ex­changes.

De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar with his US coun­ter­part Dr Ash­ton Carter in New Delhi on April 12, 2016

F/A-18A Hor­net multi-role fighter air­craft

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