- The strategic clinch between India-US is set to get even tighter with two more bilateral military pacts, a joint tri-Service amphibious exercise for the first time and defence procurement.
Bilateral military pacts:
Three foundational agreement:
- To allow smooth interoperability between the two militaries, and also kind of pre-condition from US for High end Technology transfer to India.
- These three agreement has been discussed between India & US since 2003-04:
- Logistics Support Agreement (LSA): a convenient accounting arrangement that would let both militaries use each other’s facilities on credit rather than hard cash. Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is tweaked version of LSA.
- Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA): would enable data links that connect maritime aircraft to submarines, providing real-time intelligence.
- Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA): enhance the effectiveness of Indian military equipment already bought from America.
Status of pacts:
- Earlier, Indian government had stonewalled all attempts by the US to push for the inking of the three so-called “foundational military agreements” during its 10-year tenure on the ground that it would “compromise the strategic autonomy” of India.
- However, later, Government went ahead and inked the first one on reciprocal logistics support — Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) — with India-specific safeguards in 2016.
- Substantial progress has now been made towards finalizing the Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) between the two countries.
- The two countries have also decided to hold their first-ever mega tri-Service amphibious exercise to supplement the flurry of war games they already hold every year from the top-notch naval Malabar (with Japan as the third participant) to the counter-terror VajraPrahar and YudhAbhyas between their armies.
- This will be only the second time India will deploy assets and manpower from its Army, Navy and IAF together for an exercise with a foreign country, after the Indra war games were held with Russia at Vladivostok last year.
- New procurement:
- While the US hard-sell to set up a F/A-18 “Super Hornet” or a F-16 fighter production line in India in still in a preliminary stage, India has virtually finalized the acquisition of six more Boeing Apache attack helicopters for $930 million and 24 Sikorsky S-70B multi-role naval choppers with potent anti-submarine warfare capabilities for around $2 billion.
- The IAF, incidentally, is slated to induct 12 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers in the 2019-2020 time frame under the contracts inked for them.
- India, however, remains miffed about the new US sanctions regime called CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanction Act) that targets countries buying weapon systems from Russia.
- However India and Russia are working to get around CAATSA because they have new defence projects worth over $12 billion hanging in the balance as well as the operational need to maintain the huge inventory of Russian-origin equipment held by the Indian armed forces.