India and US ‘agree in principle’ on sharing military logistics

Washington has been urging New Delhi to sign the Logistics Support Agreement that allows the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest.

NEW DELHI // The US and India have reached a preliminary agreement that will make it easier for the two countries’ militaries to work together in disasters or other emergencies, defence secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday.

During a joint news conference with Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar, Mr Carter said the two countries have “agreed in principle” on the logistical agreement, and it could be finalised in weeks. Mr Parrikar estimated it will take about a month.

Mr Carter said the two countries expect to soon reach a second pact to improve the sharing of information on commercial shipping, in a move to beef up security on the seas.

US defence officials said the first agreement will help the two militaries coordinate better, including in exercises, and also allow the US to more easily sell fuel or provide spare parts to the Indians.

Indian officials had a number of questions about what they may be obligated to do as a result of the agreement – including whether it would give US forces access to Indian military bases –and were assured it would not do that.

While officials touted the signing as an important step, there was less progress on other programs the US would like to partner with India on.

Those would include cooperation on the development of jet engines and aircraft carrier technologies.

According to the defence officials, discussions are continuing on how the two countries may be able to collaborate as India begins development of its next aircraft carrier.

Mr Carter on Monday noted that India wants to move to a flat-deck design of its aircraft carriers, he said the U.S. is “more than willing” to share its catapult technology used to launch fighter jets off carriers.

Defence officials said that if India begins using the catapult technology, then there could be opportunities for India to buy US-made FA-18 fighter jets or other aircraft that use that launching system.

Last June, during a visit to India, Mr Carter and Mr Parrikar signed a defence agreement, as part of a broader US effort to improve what has been a rocky relationship between the two countries.

At that time, he announced two US$1 million (Dh3.67m) joint research ventures. While small, defence officials say the two-year projects will set the groundwork for future collaboration.

On Tuesday, Mr Carter announced that the two countries have now agreed to start two more co-development projects – one for digital, helmet-mounted displays and one for biological detection system.

Four other projects, valued at about $44 million, are being finalised and would involve high energy lasers, target detection, small drones and traumatic brain injury.

Last year, Mr Carter acknowledged the difficulties on both sides in breaking through the red tape to achieve more development cooperation, but said things are moving forward.

This week, officials said they believe that with one agreement achieved, it will be easier to work through others.

But the US must still grapple with a significant degree of suspicion within the government and among the Indian people who see America’s relationship with Pakistan as a threat.

Mr Carter on Tuesday was asked repeatedly by Indian reporters why the US sold fighter jets to Pakistan, since the aircraft could be used against India.

He replied that the two relationships are separate, and the US has no interest in seeing any conflict between India and Pakistan.

He said the US effort with Pakistan is aimed at combating terrorism and the fighter jets are used for operations against militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) region. The US, he said, approves of Pakistan’s effort to go after militants there.

US leaders have long hoped to partner more with India as it modernises its military, but Indian leaders have been more interested in co-development opportunities than in simply buying American-made weapons.

India has also been courting a strong business relationship with China. Beijing sees India as a market for its increasingly high-tech goods, from high-speed trains to nuclear power plants, while India wants to attract Chinese investment in manufacturing and infrastructure.

* Associated Press

Published: April 12, 2016 04:00 AM

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