WASHINGTON: India has indicated to the US that it may reconsider its stand on three contentious defence foundational agreements if its apprehensions about some of the issues in the pacts are addressed by the Pentagon.
After Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s just concluded visit to the US wherein he had detailed discussions with Defence Secretary Ashton Carter on a wide range of issues, top officials from both sides said there is some positive movement on the three defence agreements being proposed by the US to India, which was opposed by New Delhi thus far.
The three foundational agreements proposed by the Pentagon are the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA); Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).
“The Indian side has expressed certain reservation/ apprehension about some of the issues (with regard to Foundational Agreements),” Parrikar told reporters at the end of his US trip responding to a question last week.
“We have told them that they should put up after due consideration and if the process (of technology transfer) can be speeded up, in principal those things (foundational agreements) can be considered,” Parrikar said.
US Ambassador to India Richard Verma, who was present in most of the meetings that Parrikar had with Carter, acknowledged that there would be some movement on this part.
“We would see progress on the foundational agreements in 2016 as well,” Verma told Indian reporters on Friday.
“We have made a very convincing case to the Indian side that this is so much in their interest and our interest to sign the agreements and let’s move over to the next level of technological co-operation and the signals we are getting are positive,” Verma said in response to a question.
However, he said the defence co-operation would continue at the same pace even in the absence of these agreements, which is only one of the broader export control issues.
“Foundational agreements are part of it, but I would not suggest that either you have to have foundational agreements or nothing would happen,” Verma said.
The issue of foundational agreements popped up prominently during the meetings with defense industry as well.
“The US side wants India to sign foundational agreements. This, the US side feels, would allow them to transfer technology to India with confidence,” said Sukaran Singh, CEO and MD of Tata Advanced Systems, who was part of the Indian business delegation that accompanied the Defense Minister.
However, Singh said he was not aware how much progress was made by the two countries on the three agreements.
According to the officials, CISMOA permits secure communications interoperability between partners during bilateral and multinational training exercises and operations.
“It enables friendly partner governments to receive both secure communications products and information on approved equipment for these purposes,” a senior defense department official had said early this year.
Noting that the agreement also provides safeguarding guidelines and mechanisms for addressing such initiatives on a mutually agreeable basis, the official said for example CISMOA can provide for advanced terrain mapping software for US manufactured aircraft such as C-130Js.
LSA, which is sometimes also referred as Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements (ACSAs), facilitates the provision of logistical support, supplies, and services between the US military and the armed forces of partner countries on a reimbursable basis, and provides a framework that governs the exchange of logistics support, supplies, and services.
This may include food, water, billeting, transportation, petroleum, oils, lubricants, clothing, medical services, spare parts and components, repair and maintenance services, training services, and other logistical items and services, the official added.
It facilitates exchanges on a case-by case basis for pre- negotiated logistical arrangements or payment upon receipt.
This agreement only provides an additional means to fund necessary support (e.g., exchange of like services, lease of equipment) and requires the approval of both countries on a case-by-case basis, officials said.
For example, senior defense officials said, during a bilateral exercise with the US, the participant country’s unit requires fuel for its equipment. The unit cannot make the purchase unless it can pay directly and immediately.
“An LSA agreement would allow for the purchase by establishing a value for the purchase and the terms for payment, which could be replacement-in-kind or an equal-value exchange,” the official said.
According to the defence official, BECA allows for no-cost exchange of unclassified and controlled unclassified geospatial products, data, and services between India and the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
This agreement would enable India to obtain a range of geospatial products, training, and subject matter expert exchanges. Additionally, NGA would be enable to provide India with certain types of training at the NGA College as desired.
For example, under a under a BECA, partner governments agree to the exchange of topographical, nautical, and aeronautical data and products.
One of the foundational agreements General Security Of Military Information Agreement was been signed in 2002. The so-called foundational agreements, senior defense department officials said, are frequently used by the US to facilitate defense cooperation with foreign military partners as well as their defense-related contractors.
These are routine agreements, and to date the US has signed more than 100 such agreements with its partner countries around the world, the official added.
Source: Defense News