why in News?On August 29 this year, Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter signed a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), an agreement that the U.S. has assiduously pursued since 2002 and which India had, till now, resolutely refused to endorse.
- Both Mr. Carter and Mr. Parrikar have consequently gone to great lengths to explain that LEMOA does not amount to a military pact. Their explanation could appear disingenuous to many. It may also not find too many takers.
Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) :
- Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) –
- fine tuned version of Logistics Support Agreement (LSA)
- is an agreement on sharing of military logistics between India and the American forces and
- will facilitate support such as refuelling and berthing facilities for each other’s warships and aircrafts on a reimbursable basis
It is also one of the three foundational agreements — as referred to by the U.S.
What are the foundational agreements for?
- They are meant to build basic ground work and promote interoperability between militaries by creating common standards and systems. They also guide sale and transfer of high-end technologies.
What does signing LEMOA mean?
- LEMOA gives access, to both countries, to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment. India and the U.S. already hold large number of joint exercises during which payments are done each time, which is a long and tedious process.
- Under the new agreement, a mechanism will be instituted for book-keeping and payments and officials, who will act as nodal points of contact, will be designated on both sides.
What areas does the agreement cover?
- The agreement will primarily cover four areas — port calls, joint exercises, training and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. Any other requirement has to be agreed upon by both sides on a case-by-case basis.
Will this mean stationing of U.S. troops in India?
- No, this is not a basing agreement. There will be no basing of the U.S. troops or assets on Indian soil. This is purely a logistical agreement. India can access the string of U.S. facilities across the globe for logistical support and the U.S., which operates in a big way in Asia-Pacific, will benefit from Indian facilities.
- The LEMOA would be beneficial at the time of disaster relief operations like the one India undertook in the wake of the Asian Tsunami and exercise done in wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal.
- Maritime security, maritime domain Awareness
- Military-to-military relations will deepen
- Rules-based order and regional security architecture conducive to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean will be established.
Benefits for US
- “Third Offset Strategy”-
- US want a stronger Indian military to deter, not provoke, conflict with China. Indeed, this was not the case about 20 years ago.
- The most significant difference between now and then is the growing capability and assertiveness of the Chinese military. The trajectory of China’s growing military capabilities threatens to widen the gap between China’s military capabilities and those of India.
- This is the kind of gap that increases the chance of conflict. And the US and India have an undeniable common interest in trying to prevent it from growing further.
- The new approach has been branded the “Third Offset Strategy”. Like the two earlier offsets — tactical nuclear weapons and precision-guided conventional munitions — the US hopes that AI and associated technologies will help America counter the quantitative superiority its rivals Russia and China enjoy in Eurasia and the Western Pacific.
- The US has other interests as well, such as maintaining its military edge and ensuring that its “crown jewel” defence technology doesn’t find its way into the hands of adversaries like Russia.
Benefits for India
- India needs a policy framework and engagement with Washington to take advantage of a tech revolution critical for its own security.
- Rapid advances in robotics, machine-learning and big-data analytics are at once driving the so-called “fourth industrial revolution” and the transformation of modern warfare. At the centre of it all is the science and engineering of artificial intelligence (AI), or computer algorithms that can perform many functions, such as vision, voice recognition, decision-making and the capacity to process vast quantities of information, which are usually associated with humans.
- For India too, artificial intelligence (AI), might be critical in coping with the growing gap in conventional military capabilities that has opened up with China. The Chinese defence budget is now more than four times that of India and Beijing has devoted considerable intellectual and policy energies to transform the organization and doctrine of its armed forces.
- AI is also likely to play an important role in countering Pakistan’s low-intensity conflict against India through such proxies as the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
- Effective use of these will help India accelerate its own economic growth, address its national security challenges and gain an effective voice in the international regulation of autonomous weapons and robotic warfare. India was rather slow in waking up to the impact of the cyber revolution; it can’t afford to make the same error in relation to the AI transformation.
- However, strategic experts, especially those in the West, are of the view that the LEMOA is a critical link in the U.S.’s plans for a larger pivot towards Asia.
- Also, that it is intended to meet the threat from an increasingly assertive China. Erasing such impressions will not be easy.
- But China’s Defence White Paper of 2015 shows China is going to become a maritime power in the Indian Ocean. Further, “One belt one road” is the larger plan to change the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean to support the permanent presence of a Chinese fleet. It’s admittedly a long-term plan.
History of India US strategic relations
- Realistically speaking, the strategic build-up between the two countries commenced during the first term of Mr. Bush, when the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership heralded a sea change in U.S.-India relations.
- In his second term, Mr. Bush was able to establish a “special relationship” with Dr. Singh.
- Energy and strategic issues greatly benefitted from the relationship.
- India-U.S. civil nuclear deal was concluded
- It was in 2005 that India and the U.S. signed their first Defence Cooperation Agreement. This agreement was renewed and expanded in 2010 and 2015, leading to a loosening of strict controls that existed regarding the transfer of excluded categories of technologies.
- Around 2007-2008, the U.S. made initial moves to get India to sign three foundational agreements viz.,
- the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA);
- the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA)– Signing the CISMOA would enable India to get encrypted communications equipment and systems allowing military commanders to communicate with aircraft and ships through a secure network.
- and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geo-spatial Cooperation- BECA would provide India with topographical and aeronautical data and products, which will aid navigation and targeting.
- While India welcomed the idea of relaxation of technology norms, it resisted signing the foundational agreements on the ground that it undermined India’s strategic autonomy.
- June 2016 proved to be a defining month in India-U.S. relations.
- The joint statement issued on the occasion of Mr. Modi’s visit to the U.S. talked of “the two countries providing global leadership on issues of shared interest”,
- announcement that the U.S. recognised India as a “major defence partner”.
- In his address to the U.S. Congress, the Prime Minister proceeded to observe that “India had moved beyond the hesitations of history”. The two largest democracies in the world thus appeared finally to be on the same page.
- With LEMOA in place, it is almost certain that pressures would intensify to sign the other two foundational agreements — CISMOA and BECA.
- If India were to do so — and if credence were to be given to what Mr. Carter said on a visit to India previously, viz., that there was a strategic confluence between India and the U.S. today, and renewal of the U.S.-India Defence Partnership was leading to increased strategic cooperation — it could convey an impression that India had gone from becoming a “major defence partner” to a significant “non-NATO ally”.
- India could put the squeeze in the Indian Ocean but Indian navy is required to play a supporting role in ensuring freedom of navigation and ensure a peaceful Chinese rise than the ability to squeeze the Malacca jugular as a strategic threat.
- As India work with the United States to realize the full potential of India’s Act East policy, India also seeks a closer partnership with the United States to promote shared interests in India’s west, especially in the context of the emerging situation in West Asia
- 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 Indian Ocean region and the world.
Impact of such an alignment
- India-U.S. relations are hardly a “zero-sum game”.
- Overcoming “the hesitations of history” is one thing;
- not ignoring the lessons of history is equally, if not more, important.
- The U.S. is a true practitioner of the art of “realpolitik”.
- Changes in policy are constantly effected to suit its global requirements. In Europe, for example, today the U.S. seems to be preparing to jettison its long-standing “special relationship” with the U.K.
- In West Asia, as U.S.-Iran relations improve, Saudi Arabia is now the new villain on the block.
- The U.S. had always been suspicious of India’s relations with Russia, that go back to the period of non-alignment. And today, as U.S.-Russia relations are at their nadir since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. can be expected to try and further weaken India-Russia relations that are lately facing some strain.
- Furthermore, given Pakistan’s location, it would be a mistake to believe that the U.S. would completely detach itself from Pakistan.
- The geopolitical situation across the region is more confused today than it was only a few years back. Geopolitical alignments are changing at a bewildering pace. As India moves closer to the U.S., Russia is seen to be coming closer to China.
- At one level, Russia is strengthening its links with China economically and strategically, and coordinating more closely with the latter on the issue of the South China Sea.
- At another level, Russia is engaging with China to oppose U.S. attempts to install its Missile Defence System in Asia.
- Russia is simultaneously seeking to reinforce its long-standing strategic ties with Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam. Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) appear to have come closer. At the Russia-ASEAN Summit earlier this year, there was even talk of a “strategic partnership for mutual benefit”.
- In Eurasia, Russia is currently carving out a zone of influence for itself.
- India does not figure in any of these plans.
- When the strategic balance across the entire Asian region is undergoing a seismic shift, India cannot be seen to be playing a losing hand. The main players, today, are the U.S., Russia and China.
- The current effort of countries such as China and Russia is to restrict, if not exclude, U.S. influence from the region, labelling it as a non-Asian power. On issues such as the South China Sea, even many of the countries directly involved, specially the Philippines, are willing to make their peace with China.
- The U.S.’s role in the region is thus becoming restricted, leaving it with few alternatives.
- In global affairs, timing is of great significance. Hence, India’s leaders need to reflect whether this is the opportune moment for the country to reset its compass and move away from its long-term insistence on strategic autonomy.
- It is also hardly the time to be seen to be the ally of One Power, that too one whose power seems to be waning. It might diminish India’s image in the region and beyond