India, US close to inking military sharing pact
India and the US are close to inking a pact under which their militaries can refuel ships and aircraft in cashless transactions that are balanced at the end of year, a senior US officer said on Saturday.
Under the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) that is currently with the Cabinet Committee on Security, the two countries can also "borrow" military equipment wherever this is required instead of having to cart it all the way from home, Lt General Jeffrey Kohler, director of the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, told reporters in the Capital.
The US, which had proposed the pact some four years ago during the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime, has similar agreements in place with some 65 countries.
In most cases, it is called the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) that was formerly known as the NATO Mutual Support Act. It was enacted to simplify exchanges of logistic support, supplies, and services between the US and other NATO forces. It was amended in 1986, 1992 and 1994 to permit ACSAs with non-NATO countries.
Kohler explained how the agreement works.
"There's an Indian Navy ship in the US that needs refuelling. It does so for free. Sometime during the year, US military aircraft will land in India or our navy vessels will visit your ports and refuel in similar manner. At the end of the year, we balance the books," he said.
"Let's say India is sending troops to country X on a UN peacekeeping mission. You can borrow vehicles and even armoured personnel carriers but not weapons from the assets we might have in the neighbourhood. Here too, we'll balance the books at the end of the year," Kohler added.
Had such an agreement been in force, India could have saved some $1 million in the Indian Navy's acquisition of the troop carrier USS Trenton, now renamed the INS Jalashva.
"Since the LSA was not in place, India had to pay extra for the fuel that we put on board (before handing over the vessel to the Indian Navy last month)," Kohler pointed out.
Kohler, who retires in September, is on his seventh visit to India. While in the Capital, he met Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt, Secretary (Defence Production) KP Singh, Director General (Acquisitions) Sheelbhadra Banerjee, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, and Indian Air Force (IAF) vice chief Air Marshal BN Gokhale among others.
Vice Admiral-designate Jeffrey Wieringa, currently deputy assistant secretary of the US navy and director of the international programmes office, will succeed Kohler.