India and the US have signed an in-principle agreement for sharing military logistics. The agreement will give two nations access to logistic support from each other besides refueling and birthing facilities. The US has also made it clear that if India wants transfer of high end technology, it needs to sign three foundational agreements. These agreements include:
- Logistic Support Agreement (LSA).
- Communications Inter-operability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
- Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA).
Although the LSA agreement has been under negotiation for two decades now, the previous government was opposed to it. There was apprehension that the agreement would draw India into a de facto military alliance with the US. It should be noted here that this agreement does not involve giving away any bases. Also, India does not have any such agreements with other nations.
What is LSA all about?
Initially Logistics Support Agreement was called Access and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) but later it was renamed Logistics Support Agreement. The LSA would require both countries to provide their bases, fuel and other kinds of logistics support to each others’ fighter jets and naval warships. Logistical support with regard to weapons facilities would involve non-offensive military equipment. This support will involve cashless transactions on a reciprocal basis. The LSA would be particularly beneficial at the time of disaster relief operations like the one India undertook in the wake of the Asian Tsunami in 2004.
Why it was opposed?
- There is an apprehension that this agreement would lead progressively towards a form of informal military alliance.
- This has politically sensitivity involved in it too.
- Some experts also believe that by signing this agreement India may become a party to the ‘wrong designs’ of the US military in the region and in the process, compromise India’s strategic sovereignty.
Benefits of this agreement:
- Whenever the ships of other countries visit our ports or air bases, they go through a very long process of clearances through MEA, MoD and other agencies. This agreement aims at cutting short of these procedures.
- The exchange of logistics support facilities would further enhance bilateral defence cooperation as well as India’s strategic role, keeping in view the projected expansion of the Indian Navy’s role beyond the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
- The absence of appropriate logistics support mechanism between the two countries would hamper such capabilities to effectively deal with the security challenges during emergency situations.
- Financially too the LSA makes good sense for India. According to some official estimates, with LSA in place, India would be able to save around US$20 million per war game, when Indian forces take part in any of the joint military exercises with the US on American soil.
Things to be taken care of:
- The logistics support should be limited to certain situations such as joint military exercises, interventions in disaster relief or any other situation mutually agreed upon.
- It should be taken care that the degree of autonomy in deciding what situation the agreement will apply is not lost.
- This agreement involves setting up of warehousing facilities in each other’s lands. It is worrying because such places have their own personnel guarding them.
- India should also make sure that it retains the ability to say no to access to logistics under exceptional circumstances.
What about other two agreements?
- CISMOA would allow US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US higher commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate with each other through secure networks in peace and war.
- BECA would provide India with topographical and aeronautical data and products which will aid navigation and targeting.
- These are areas in which US is very advanced and agreement could definitely benefit India, although armed forces which use systems from many other countries like Israel and Russia are not comfortable with sharing information about their systems with US.
The logistics support agreement is a mutually beneficial agreement. However, both sides need to make efforts to arrive at a consensus that is consistent with their national interests and policies. LSA should be limited to simplifying procedures. Also, the other agreements are not easy. They need larger consensus and greater discussions. The fundamental question is whether India possesses the political will to forge a closer relationship with the US, and at the same time have all its options open for any eventuality.