According to a Reuters report on February 29, after 12 years of negotiation, India and the U.S. are close to an agreement to share a military logistics system. Singapore’s ‘Lianhe Zaobao’ reported that the agreement, if implemented,will enormously strengthen the Indian navy and act as a counter to China’s increasing capabilities in the Indian Ocean. Hong Lei, Chinese Ministry of Foreign affairs Spokesperson, said on February 29, “we hope the relevant cooperation is beneficial to regional peace and cooperation and should not be aimed at the interests of third parties”.
Reuters quoted an anonymous American Defence official engaged in business with India saying that this logistics agreement will allow both the militaries of both countries to use each other’s army, navy and air force bases for rest, supplies and repairs. This was already confirmed last Wednesday by Harris, the Commanding Officer of U.S. Pacific Ocean military command center, at the speech he made at the Military Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. He said that India and the U.S. have made great efforts to reach three Agreements: logistical support, secure communications when the militaries operate together, and a third on exchange of topographical, nautical and aeronautical data. “We have not signed this agreement with India yet but we believe we are close to it”. Harris will visit India this week.
In 2008, Wikileaks published a mail from an American diplomat in India which revealed that talks for a logistics safeguard agreement between India and the U.S. had started in 2003. A report from the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies said that the agreement was formally proposed during President Bush’s 2006 visit, during which both the armies signed agreements for combined military training, exercise and assistance. According to Hindustan Times, during the India visit of Jeffery Kohler, Director of U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency,in 2007, he revealed in an interview that India and the U.S. will formally sign a military cooperation agreement in writing. This cooperation agreement was to enable both countries’ military, wherever they are in the world, to borrow each other’s military equipment in order to save expenditure of funds and raise combat efficiency to win bigger wars. Ultimately, however, the two countries did not sign this agreement.
Rediff reported on February 29 that the previous Indian government was worried that this agreement will commit India to providing support to the U.S. in wars. Should the agreement be signed it would weaken India’s strategic independence and make India a military ally of America. Few Indian departments also worry that the agreement section that permits communication sharing will give the U.S. access to the Indian Air Force’s communication network.
The Business Insider website reported that the Modi government has already expressed their willingness to carry forward consultations for the logistics safeguard agreement. An Indian official said that Washington has guaranteed that New Delhi will not be bound by it if the U.S. went to war with a friendly country or undertook any other unilateral action that New Delhi did not support. Another anonymous source familiar with the agreement’s progress said, “It has been clarified that it will be done on a case-to-case basis; it’s not automatic that either side will get access to facilities in the case of war”.
“This is a sign of strengthening military cooperation between U.S. and India”, said Singapore’s Channel News Asia. The U.S. has already replaced Russia as India’s largest weapons procurement source. The frequency of America’s military joint exercises with India surpasses their count with any other country. The U.S. is already in consultation with India to help it build their biggest aircraft carrier. This is, till date, the largest India-U.S. military collaboration and will strengthen the strength of Indian navy.
This progress is making headway at a time when there are rumors about India and the U.S. planning a joint patrol in South China Sea—although both the sides have subsequently denied this. According to a Rediff report, India, along with other countries in the region, have always been vigilant of Chinese navy’s “infiltration” in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, India is strengthening its naval capabilities and expanding defense ties with Japan and America. Indian defense expert, Saroj, said, “Obama’s Asia-Pacific pivot strategy and Modi’s look East strategy are gradually intersecting.”
Qian Feng, China South Asia society Executive Director, told this Global Times reporter in an interview on February 29 that U.S. has always considered China as a potential threat to its national security and has always tried to use military or political means to contain China. Now the U.S. has Japan as a reliable ally in East Asia and if it brings India in its defense system from the western flank, it can target China from both eastern and western flanks and will pose a potential security threat for China.
However, Qian Feng also added that
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