India-US strategic partnership set for new high with deals and drills

The News

  • The strategic clinch between India-US is set to get even tighter with two more bilateral military pacts, a joint tri-Service amphibious exercise for the first time and defence procurement.


Bilateral military pacts:

Three foundational agreement:

  • To allow smooth interoperability between the two militaries, and also kind of pre-condition from US for High end Technology transfer to India.
  • These three agreement has been discussed between India & US since 2003-04:
    1. Logistics Support Agreement (LSA):  a convenient accounting arrangement that would let both militaries use each other’s facilities on credit rather than hard cash. Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is tweaked version of LSA.
    2. Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA): would enable data links that connect maritime aircraft to submarines, providing real-time intelligence.
    3. Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA):  enhance the effectiveness of Indian military equipment already bought from America.


Status of pacts:

  • Earlier, Indian government had stonewalled all attempts by the US to push for the inking of the three so-called “foundational military agreements” during its 10-year tenure on the ground that it would “compromise the strategic autonomy” of India.
  • However, later, Government went ahead and inked the first one on reciprocal logistics support — Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) — with India-specific safeguards in 2016.
  • Substantial progress has now been made towards finalizing the Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) between the two countries.



Tri-service exercise:

  • The two countries have also decided to hold their first-ever mega tri-Service amphibious exercise to supplement the flurry of war games they already hold every year from the top-notch naval Malabar (with Japan as the third participant) to the counter-terror VajraPrahar and YudhAbhyas between their armies.
  • This will be only the second time India will deploy assets and manpower from its Army, Navy and IAF together for an exercise with a foreign country, after the Indra war games were held with Russia at Vladivostok last year.


Defence procurement:

  • New procurement:
    • While the US hard-sell to set up a F/A-18 “Super Hornet” or a F-16 fighter production line in India in still in a preliminary stage, India has virtually finalized the acquisition of six more Boeing Apache attack helicopters for $930 million and 24 Sikorsky S-70B multi-role naval choppers with potent anti-submarine warfare capabilities for around $2 billion.
    • The IAF, incidentally, is slated to induct 12 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers in the 2019-2020 time frame under the contracts inked for them.
  • Concerns:
    • India, however, remains miffed about the new US sanctions regime called CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanction Act) that targets countries buying weapon systems from Russia.
    • However India and Russia are working to get around CAATSA because they have new defence projects worth over $12 billion hanging in the balance as well as the operational need to maintain the huge inventory of Russian-origin equipment held by the Indian armed forces.

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