The Big Picture- Indo-US Strategic Ties: Where Is It Heading?
The relationship between India and USA which has been on an upward curve for some time is further seeing an upward trend. The crucial LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) recently signed by both the countries is a significant step towards strategic and defence ties.
What does the Agreement mean?
- It provides for automatic approvals process in place to militaries of both the nations to share each other’s bases for various operations. It establishes basic terms, conditions, and procedures for reciprocal provision of logistic support, supplies, and services.
- It covers logistics supplies during disaster relief efforts, joint exercises, port visits, joint training and humanitarian assistance along with other uses to be discussed on a case by case basis.
- The agreement does not create any obligation on either party to carry out any joint activity compulsorily and also does not provide for any basing arrangements.
The agreement is a strategic binding between India and the US. This is the final lap for Obama administration not only with respect to India but also with other countries. This is the time when Obama’s legacy is being finally summed up. From USA’s point of view this agreement is a tremendous success which was held back for several years.
By signing this agreement India does not agree to provide basing rights to USA or being a military ally to it. As per the agreement, it only facilitates the Indian military to fulfill its basic logistic requirements such as food, water, transportation, petroleum, oils, lubricants, clothing, communication services, medical services, storage services, training services, spare parts and components, repair and maintenance services, calibration services and vice versa. Since America is already a strong military power, at present India seems to have an edge as this agreement gives an enabling framework and will enhance its sustainability in different areas of humanitarian work.
This agreement has taken more than 14 years to be signed. America has put India as a defence partner and not an ally. It wants India to be a rising power and this is in interest of both the countries. In 2003 during Iraq war, India had provided logistic facilities to the US ships for refueling. Ships were escorted through the Malacca Strait. The agreement is more than logistics supplies and has to be looked in terms of trade, defence and technological initiative. For example: DTTI (Defence Technology and Trade Initiative) aims to strengthen India US cooperative research, co-production, and co-development of capabilities which are required for modernization of our military forces and for this US has set up an Arms Act as well specifically for India. An India Rapid Reaction Cell has been set up in Pentagon as well to speed up defence ties.
The key point is access to bases today and if India gets access to the US bases in South China Sea, South East Asia or Asia Pacific, then it would be a major plus point. India holds more joint military exercises with US than any other nation in the world. These exercises will become much easier to conduct.
This is a kind of litmus test from America’s point of view. India has taken a leap of faith and has come much closer to US in strategic and geopolitical terms. While having its own strategic autonomy, India has identified itself with US strategies as well in a harmonious manner. However, this is a foundation agreement and there are many other agreements which are major ones yet to be signed. China may or may not be much concerned about this agreement because it already has it owns bases in Djibouti and access to Pakistani ports. So, China can take care of its requirements. If such agreements are signed by India, it cannot stop Sri Lanka in future to sign any pact with Chinese. The aim is basically to have a containment strategy against China. Russia has got access to our region through Iranian ports very recently. So, India has taken correct steps in its interest and there is no alternative to it.
The non alignment era has ended now and this is the time for multi alignment. India has maintained good relations with Japan, US, China, Russia and other countries while talking of strategic autonomy. Indo-US relationship tends to work in bits and pieces as the role of US in South China Sea is still not clear and both countries have different views on Afghanistan. Now in the pretext of current events this diplomacy is something that needs to be maintained in future as well.