India, US agree in principle to logistics exchange agreement

India, US agree in principle to logistics exchange agreement

India, US agree in principle to logistics exchange agreement

India and the US today agreed "in principle" to a logistics exchange agreement to enable both militaries to use each other's assets and bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, an issue which did not find favour with the previous UPA government.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter made it clear that the agreement, which will be signed in "weeks" or "coming months", does not entail deployment of American troops on Indian soil.

Ramping up bilateral defence ties, both sides agreed to set up a new bilateral Maritime Security Dialogue between officials from their respective defence and foreign affairs ministries.

This came as India and the US emphasised on freedom of navigation and need for international based order, in an apparent reference to China's assertiveness in South China Sea.

Following the delegation-level talks at South Block here, both countries also decided to enhance on-going navy-to-navy discussions to cover submarine-related issues.

Both countries will also deepen cooperation in maritime domain awareness by finalising a 'White Shipping' agreement in the near future.

Carter said India and the US agreed to two new projects under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). This included a tactical biological detection unit, Carter said.

On growing Indo-US military exchanges, Parrikar said, "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."

LEMOA is a tweaked version of Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) which facilitates the provision of logistical support, supplies and services between the US military and the armed forces of partner countries on a reimbursable basis, and provides a framework that governs the exchange of logistics support, supplies and services.

Explaining the proposed agreement, Parrikar said it is for providing logistics whenever they need fuel or other support during operations like the humanitarian exercise done in wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal.

"This will help if any such situation comes up. Logistics is a very important part of the operation. It will be on case by case basis," Carter said, adding that "all issues" relating to the deal have been resolved.  

India was earlier of the view that a logistics agreement would be seen as a military alliance with the US. However, with a tweaked LSA, India will decide on a case-to-case basis.

LSA was part of the three controversial agreements that the US has been pursuing India to sign for nearly a decade.

Termed as the "foundational agreements", the other two are -- Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

US officials said the logistics agreement will help the two militaries coordinate better, including in exercises, and also allow each other to more easily sell fuel or provide spare parts to India.

Carter said that while sharing logistical assets may seem like it should be automatic, it is not.

Although some of that can be done now, through what officials called "workarounds," the agreement will help expedite such transactions, he said.

A joint statement released later said both Carter and Parrikar reaffirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, including in South China Sea.

They expressed their support for a rules-based order and regional security architecture conducive to peace and prosperity in Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, and emphasised 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, it said.

Both sides referred to the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative and agreed to initiate two new pathfinder projects on digital helmet mounted displays and the Joint Biological Tactical Detection System.

They commended the on-going 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.

Both also noted the understanding reached to conclude an information exchange annex (IEA) to enhance data and information sharing specific to aircraft carriers.

Carter and Parrikar welcomed the finalisation of four government-to-government project agreements in the areas of science and technology cooperation -- Atmospheric Sciences for High Energy Lasers, Cognitive Tools for Target Detection, Small Intelligent Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Blast and Blunt Traumatic Brain Injury. 

Parrikar said that 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 India-US 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," he said.

Describing Carter as the architect of the India-US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, the Defence Minister said DTTI has provided an unprecedented platform for both countries to strengthen bilateral cooperation in cutting-edge technologies and to address procedural delays in decision making.

Parrikar said Carter's visit underlines the growing importance of the maritime dimension of relationship, as manifested in the Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean region.

"It was entirely appropriate that we visited India's western shores. Even as we work with the United States to realise the full potential of India's Act East policy, we also seek a closer partnership with the United States to promote our shared interests in India's west, especially in the context of the emerging situation in West Asia," he said.

He said India has more joint exercises with the United States than with any other country in the world.

Parrikar said they also discussed the regional security environment.

India and the United States are both strongly committed to a rule-based international order, Parrikar said adding that both will continue to work together to maintenance of peace and stability and providing an enabling framework for progress and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific.

"It is the convergence of our core democratic values and deeply shared interests that drives our relationship forward. Carter's visit has elevated our strategic partnership to a higher level," he said.

Carter, who arrived in Goa on Sunday noon, is on a tour of South Asia, South East Asia and the Middle East.

This is likely to be Carter's last trip to India in his current capacity, given that the US will be going for presidential election in November.  

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