India and the United States are likely to sign a key agreement that will allow the two countries to provide logistics support to each other’s fighter planes, warships and personnel this week during defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s three-day visit to the US.
The signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which has been delayed for about a decade, would be one of the highlights of Parrikar’s visit. The two countries agreed to sign the LEMOA in principle during US defence secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to New Delhi earlier in April.
Parrikar is scheduled to hold his third meeting with Carter on Monday.
When Indian navy ships sail the high seas they often drop by the bases of their US counterpart for fuel and supplies. Every time they do so, they have to ask New Delhi for permission and work out a payment system. It is a cumbersome process that would have weighed heavily on the Indian Navy’s ability to play a wider role not merely in other oceans, but even in the Indian Ocean.
The agreement will institutionalise the process and make it easier for the Indian Navy to use the US base system for its own operations. While the same is true for US ships, it should be obvious who benefits more. The US’ naval infrastructure spans the world while India’s is limited to its own coast and a few Indian Ocean islands.
The agreement has a ‘request and acceptance’ clause that would give the two countries the right to refuse any request inimical to one’s interests. The pact would primarily operate in the realms of humanitarian assistance and disaster management, training and joint military exercises.
On Wednesday, Parrikar will also visit a Boeing facility in Philadelphia where the US aerospace giant manufactures its CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, which will be inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2019. His engagements also include visits to the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, Andrews Air Force base, Langley Air Force base and the US Cyber Command.
Apart from the defence minister’s visit, India and the US will hold several high-level interactions over the next few days that are likely to be the last for the Obama administration.
US secretary of state John Kerry will be reaching New Delhi on Monday for the seventh India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. This is his fourth trip to India as secretary. He will be joined by commerce secretary Penny Pritzker for the dialogue on Tuesday, along with representatives from 12 US agencies.
Kerry is also scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and national security adviser Ajit Doval.
The secretary of state will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.