US Secretary of State John Kerry has described his just concluded two-day visit to India as a successful one, as New Delhi and Washington signed an agreement that would allow them to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for military purposes.
Senior Indian and American officials signed the pact on Monday night in the presence of Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, State Secretary Kerry and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter. On the occasion, Parikkar said that it was a step toward building strong bilateral defence ties. Carter, too, welcomed the signing of the bilateral ‘Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement’ (LEMOA), saying that the accord would help both the countries counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China in Asia.
According to a joint statement issued by Parrikar and Carter, the agreement will provide the US and India with opportunities for “practical engagement and exchange”. It said: “They agreed on the importance (that) this framework will provide to facilitate innovative and advanced opportunities in defence technology and trade co-operation. To this end, the US has agreed to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners.” The statement further said that bilateral defence ties are based on “shared values and interests” of the two nations and their “abiding commitment to global peace and security”.
After attending the signing ceremony, Parrikar and Carter discussed the “wealth of progress” in bilateral co-operation and various ways to strengthen strategic partnership. They also decided to lift up defence trade and technology sharing to a certain level in the coming years.
Meanwhile, Indian defence analysts have described the LEMOA as a milestone in Indo-US defence ties. They opine that the accord will make it easier for the Indian and American Navies to support each other in joint operations and exercises, apart from providing humanitarian assistance. Talking to the media, Country Director at the Pentagon Benjamin Schwartz said: “For years, there has been tremendous misinformation put out into the Indian press about these agreements. What the signing of this shows is that the Narendra Modi government is willing to take and suffer the short-term political criticism of signing these things for the longer-term benefit of building the defence relationship with the US.”
As expected, the Indo-US logistics defence pact irked China. However, the Asian giant has issued a “cautious” statement on the LEMOA. Speaking at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that her country considers the Indo-US pact as a “normal co-operation” between the two countries. She stressed: “We have noted relevant reports. Hope that this co-operation between India and the US would work to promote stability and development of region.”
However, the Chinese state media have strongly criticised India for allowing the US to use its military bases, saying it was unfortunate that New Delhi decided to invite “strategic troubles” by making such a move. In an editorial, the state-run ‘Global Times’ clearly said that India might lose strategic independence, if it leaned towards the US. The Global Times further advised the South Asian country not to forget that it is a member of BRICS, saying: “The US media highly applauded this deal, with Forbes hailing it as a ‘war pact’ and believing that India is shifting away from Russia, its Cold War ally, towards a new alliance with the US. If India hastily joins the US alliance system, it may irritate China, Pakistan or even Russia. It may not make India feel safer, but will bring strategic troubles to itself and make itself a centre of geopolitical rivalries in Asia.” The top Chinese political leadership is of the opinion that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi switched to the hardline tone of hostility because he lost patience.
So far, India has made no comment on the article published in the Chinese daily.