In yet another sign of growing close ties between India and the United States signed a landmark defense agreement Tuesday, August 30th, that will increase the military cooperation between two of the world’s largest democracies.
The agreement, coming after nearly a decade of painstaking discussions, was finalized during a visit to Washington by Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, and it was touted as a symbol of deeper defense ties between the two nations in an increasingly tense part of the world.
In a joint statement, Parrikar and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said discussions ranged from “increased strategic and regional cooperation, to deepened military-to-military exchanges, to expanded collaboration on defense technology and innovation.”
New Delhi had strong reservations about this agreement for nearly a decade, despite the growing strategic proximity between the two nations. Many security officials and politicians in the previous Indian administration had warned that it could lock their country into a formal and irreversible military alliance and push New Delhi into supporting U.S. conflicts, a move that could upset countries such as Russia and China and friendly nations in the Middle East.
The United States is a second-largest defense-equipment retailer to India, with about $4.4 billion value of deals in a past 3 years. It is also India’s many common partner in troops exercises. Six years ago, President Obama called a ties with India “the defining partnership for America in a 21st century.”
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum Of Agreement allows for reciprocal sell of logistics support, reserve and services between a dual countries’ armed forces. This includes food, water, fuel, gangling parts, repair, transportation, communication and medical services.
Washington, which has signed more than 100 such agreements with partner nations, promoted the deal as a way to build interoperability between the two militaries.
It has been a bumpy road to greater military cooperation. Every time the United States reached out for a closer strategic embrace, New Delhi would take an awkward step back.
The agreement signed Tuesday “does not create any obligations on either party to carry out any joint activity. It does not provide for the establishment of any bases or basing arrangements,” the Indian governmentstatement said.
The agreement applies exclusively to authorized port visits, joint exercises, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief efforts. It streamlines relations between the two militaries, allowing, for instance, refueling without having to come up with a new agreement each time, analysts said.
“It’s like having a tab at the local bar. It is an easier way of doing things. It will facilitate cooperation in high seas,” said Ben Schwartz, director for defense and aerospace at the U.S.-India Business Council.