Are technical defence agreements with US beneficial for India?

The recent “in principle” agreement by Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to sign the Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), the renamed (and slightly tweaked) format of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) has elicited tonnes of articles in the media projecting it as the glowing example of the revitalisation of the Indo-US defence relations. Most of these stress on three aspects. One, it highlights the fact that the treaty does not envisage the stationing of US troops on Indian soil, showing it as a victory of sorts from the Indian perspective. Second, the treaty does not imply that India is drawn into a strategic embrace of the US. Three, somehow India has managed to retain its “strategic autonomy” despite signing this treaty. Other media pundits have explained in detail how the UPA government and the former Defence Minister A.K. Anthony had side-tracked the US and that the Modi Government has turned pragmatic and is ready to warm the defence relations and achieve a significant breakthrough. They argue that in the current situation, with India purchasing large defence equipment from the US, this probably was the best route available.

However, the fact is that the real nuances of the issue have been totally lost and the main agenda often side tracked while superficial issues are highlighted. It must be remembered that in July 2009, India had reluctantly signed the End-User Monitoring (EUM) Agreement, under US pressure, to allay their apprehensions about the usage of the US defence equipment being procured by India. But, this agreement was signed after extended negotiations that eventually ensured that it kept intrusive “monitoring” American inspectors away from Indian military bases.

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Amit Singh

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