Doors open for India to buy ‘cutting-edge’ weaponry
Doors are now being yanked open for Indian armed forces to extend their operational reach in the critical Asia Pacific region and beyond with logistical help from the US, as also acquire some cutting-edge military products like the Predator surveillance and armed drones after joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
These, in effect, were the key takeaways in the defence sector from the flurry of announcements made after the Modi-Obama meet in Washington on Tuesday. The bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which will now be inked after finalisation of its text, envisages Indian and American militaries providing logistics support, refuelling and berthing facilities to each other’s warships and aircraft on an equal-value exchange basis seamlessly.
The LEMOA will give the US forces regular access to Indian military bases, which has led to some criticism about India surrendering its traditional strategic autonomy. But, as reported by TOI earlier, the pact will also allow Indian forces access to US bases ranging from Djibouti (Horn of Africa) and Diego Garcia (central Indian Ocean) to Guam (western Pacific) and Subic Bay (the Philippines).
The LEMOA basically revolves around “functional arr- angements” for exercises, joint trainings, port calls and HADR (humanitarian assist- ance and disaster relief) operations. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar and top officials have stressed the pact will not lead to any permanent stationing of US troops on Indian soil. India will also have the right to refuse logistical support for any US military action.
India’s quest to acquire armed HALE (high-altitude, long endurance) drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) as well as some key space technologies, in turn, will now become easier after joining the 34-member MTCR, which prevents proliferation of missiles and UAVs over the range of 300-km. India has been in talks with the US for acquiring Predator/Avenger drones, which have been used extensively in the Af-Pak region to take out terrorists with their deadly Hellfire missiles, for quite some time but not being an MTCR member was a major hurdle in the way till now.
Apart from the launch of the bilateral maritime security dialogue, the conclusion of a technical arrangement for sharing of commercial ‘White Shipping’ information between India and the US is another step towards promoting overall maritime domain awareness. India, incidentally, is trying to finalise such pacts with over 25 countries from the African east coast to the western Pacific to strengthen maritime security from conventional as well as unconventional threats.
Categorisation of India as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ by the US on Tuesday is also a step forward, which will help process Indian applications faster through the American bureaucracy and control regulations. But it’s still not enough to meet the aspirations of India, which has given arms co- ntracts worth over $13 billion to the US over the last decade.