Defence logistics pact with US hits ‘implementation’ hurdles

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018

After the euphoria over India and the US “finalising” a defence logistics pact during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit, the US has expressed “concerns” over how the agreement will be implemented and operationalised.

The defence logistics pact – Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) – was the highlight of Modi’s visit to Washington earlier this month.

“The US government has raised concerns over the final implementation of the agreement. This is because to fully operationalise the LEMOA, both the governments would need to link it with transfer of technology,” a top official involved in the process told  BusinessLine.

The official said unless the entire process of linking mutual military missions are properly linked to technology sharing, the Union Cabinet will not be able to grant its nod to implement the pact fully.

The mutual military missions entail humanitarian assistance, disaster relief missions, counter piracy missions and maritime domain awareness missions.

According to sources, both India and the US have relaxed some of the stringent provisions of the pact, which, in American defence parlance, is known as the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA).

Apparently, in the final text, some changes have been made pertaining to language for “political reasons”, to make it clear that India will not be “coaxed” into supporting the US army during its military campaigns, and that such a pact will be utilised only during peace-time situation, the official added.

In April, the pact was agreed in-principle by both the governments during the visit of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter to India. However, there were some hurdles at that time related to payments for using each other’s military supplies and fuel and how the taxes will be calculated, including on the exchange of military support.

Interests of both

“It is not clear that all levels of the Indian government understand that this linkage, connecting technology to military capabilities, are in the interest of both countries.

“It is a pre-requisite to the most advanced defence technology cooperation with the US,” said Ben Schwartz, Director (Aerospace and Defence), US-India Business Council.

Besides, the Modi government has made it clear the pact will be applicable to all three services – Army, Navy and Air Force. The US had demanded clarification on this as well.

“This agreement has been sought for over a decade and by finalising the text, the Modi government has demonstrated its willingness to risk short-term domestic political pressure, including by those who misconstrue the agreement as a concession that weakens Indian sovereignty, in order to reap longer term benefits of defence cooperation with the US,” Schwartz added.

Published on June 15, 2016

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