(Global Times special correspondent in India Zhou Liangchen, Global Times reporter Wu Zhiwei Renzhong)
American Defense Secretary Carter and Indian Defense Minister Parriker reached an understanding on April 12 agreeing “in principle” to sign the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), under which both the countries will be able to share military bases. India and the U.S. both emphasize that this so-called “sharing” is only limited to transporting supplies, equipment maintenance and personnel rest, and not stationing troops, however, according to analysis by BBC and other foreign media, this decision was seen in the context of China increasingly strengthening its maritime position, especially in the south China Sea.
The agreement to be signed between India and the U.S. will be called the “Military logistics support memorandum”, reported the Times of India on April 13. This agreement is similar to the agreements signed between U.S. and its other allies wherein the militaries of both the sides are allowed to share military base and supplies. Reuters on April 13 reported that in the next few weeks both the sides will come to a decision over the text of the agreement. For the U.S. this agreement means that their aircrafts and warships can easily sail to Indian navy bases for refuelling, maintenance and other equipment supplies. Although India rarely allows foreign militaries at their offshore bases but the Indian military uses the U.S. military’s presence in Djibouti on East African coast and on Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, and is therefore a good strategic move, reported the Times of India.
Carter stressed that this military logistics agreement in no way means the U.S. army will be stationed in India. Parriker also stated, “India is unlikely to expand the scope of this agreement” and is free to revoke usage rights at any time. Despite both the sides having made their stands clear, Indian media sees the agreement as a “concession” in the country’s long standing adherence to the policy of “non-alignment”, since this agreement gives the U.S. military the right to use Indian military bases.
“Both the countries have to focus on China”, reported the Hindu on April 13, saying that the position of this military logistics agreement was an important decision of the Indian government and will have a profound influence on India’s military posture. India has also agreed to establish a new maritime security dialogue and agreed to implement the sharing of business industry data. India and the U.S. also issued a joint statement this time, reaffirming the importance of maintaining regional maritime security and freedom of navigation. The U.S.’s “Pivot to Asia” has been visible for a while and before this agreement as a result the Indian side was always hesitant, reported First Post on April 13.. But India-US defense cooperation has accelerated due to China’s increasingly powerful presence in the South China Sea. According to Financial Express the reason why this agreement is important is because it can “contend against China”.
India has signed such an agreement with another country for the first time, reported the DNA on April 13. However the article pointed out that some experts are worried that the U.S. may use Indian territory to attack other country’s military bases, “with regard to this agreement, India should take a long term view and give a careful consideration to the final text of the document”. Indian Defense magazine editor Soni believes that it is extremely difficult for that country to “maintain strategy independence” when signing a military agreement with a powerful country like the U.S.. On April 13, Nikkei Asian Review reported that India is anxious that such cooperation will weaken its foreign policy of “non-alignment” and that the Indian government is still hesitant about moving closer militarily with the U.S.. However, cooperation with U.S. army is very crucial for Modi government as he considers military hardware localization very valuable. Presently, India and the US have already established working groups in which discussion about technology transfer from the U.S. for aircraft carrier construction and aircraft engine manufacture are underway. Indian military officials, while talking to the media, stressed that this agreement was not directed against China but it is completely established on the foundation of mutual benefit and to facilitate military exchanges.
The spokesperson of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lu Kang, on April 13 said that India, as a country with strong international influence and a long history of an independent foreign policy, develops its foreign policy according to its own interest. Indian Defense Minister will make an official visit to China soon.
National Defense University professor, Han Xudong, in an interview to this Global Times reporter on April 13 outlined the three main reasons for India’s approval of this military logistics agreement: access to American military equipment, hence promote oneself as a military power; introducing the U.S. in South Asia and Indian Ocean region and therefore receiving American support to contend against China’s rising influence in the Indian Ocean region due to China’s OBOR initiative; and finally increase India’s influence in the Western Pacific region.
According to Han Xudong, the U.S. will definitely use Indian military bases but this will also depend on the extent to which India wants to exploit the U.S.. India is still does not fully trust the U.S. hence its “extremely cautious” approach during the negotiations. A military affairs expert told this Global Times reporter that American army wants to use Andaman-Nicobar island base because this channel is very important for blocking China’s movement to the Strait of Malacca. It also has few important installations on the Indian Ocean coastline, for example India’s biggest ship building and ports facility. It is also very close to Cochin, on India’s western coastline, which is very near to China’s communication lines in the Indian Ocean.
【环球时报驻印度特约记者 周良臣 环球时报记者 吴志伟 任重】美国国防部长卡特12日与印度国防部长帕里卡尔达成共识，“原则上”同意两国签署军事后勤保障协议，两军以此为基础就能够共享军事基地。尽管印美都强调，所谓“共享”仅限于物资转运、设备维修和人员休整，不涉及驻军，但英国广播公司等外媒分析称，印美的这一决定是基于中国日益增强的海上立场，特别是在南海地区。