One relationship which has undergone the most striking evolution under Modi’s leadership is India-USA relationship. What lies beneath this significant relationship is an understanding that has taken years to evolve?

Giving a great fillip to this important relationship, the two countries agreed in principle to conclude a defense agreement that would allow the two countries to use each other’s bases for refueling, replenishment, and repair. The two countries signed a defense agreement, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement” (LEMOA), It will facilitate the logistical support, supplies, and services between the American and Indian militaries on a reimbursable basis.

With this India-USA relationship has been strengthened and it holds great importance in the emerging world order as the geopolitics focus shifts to Asia-Pacific. It would not be an exaggeration to say that India-USA relationship is going to be a very significant determinant of this emerging 21st-century world order.

It needs to be mentioned that the two countries have agreed in “principle” and the specifics are not yet in the public domain. The details will be put in public domain for discussions. It is also important to note that this would be different from other defense agreement that the USA has signed with other countries. The agreement is to be signed “in the coming months,” India’s defense minister, Manohar Parrikar, after talks with his American counterpart, Ash Carter. “Secretary Carter and I agreed in principle to conclude a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in the coming months,”

He further added, “The draft of LEMOA will be ready in a month, if not weeks.”

This also underlines the strengthening defense ties across many areas: from strategic and regional cooperation, enhanced collaboration on defense technology and innovation.

It is now very clearly understood that India and USA have at least some common interests and this convergence of interests is accentuated by China’s rise which is anything but peaceful considering how aggressive China has become.

As expected this has attracted attention from Pakistan and China. Pakistan certainly appears to be very uneasy with the increasing co-operation between India and USA.

This agreement needs to be credited to both Modi and Obama as many summit level meetings have paved way for purposeful discussions. It is understood that Obama, on his recent India visit had discussed at length with Modi as to what should be the path for next ten years of defense cooperation.

This defense pact will have very large canvas. It is indeed a significant development between the two countries as it envisions  the joint development and manufacture of defense equipment and technology including jet engines, aircraft carrier design, and construction.

As goes the saying, never put all eggs in one basket India over the past few years, has sought to diversify its supplier base. India is world’s largest arms importer and still purchases 75% of its arms and ammunitions from Russia. But in the last three years, American defense giants such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing have made significant inroads into the Indian defense market and owing to this fact now the USA is now its second-largest arms supplier.

This dramatic progress in the relationship between the two countries since 2005, both in terms of the volume of defense trade and the frequency of joint military exercises.

India now conducts more military exercises with the USA as compared to any other country.

It is expected that this would serve Modi’s “Made In India well” . The deal provides opportunities for Indian defense industry to co-produce and co-develop with their Indian counterparts. This is attractive for India for many compelling reasons. Modi’s  focus on manufacturing in India particularly arms in the country fits very well into the country’s interests as our indigenous defense industry must be developed and for that, we do need technology that has until recently been denied to us. It is also important to mention here that India’s membership of MTCR is also a significant step that was also a result of increasing India-USA ties under the leadership of Modi and Obama.

India’s recent achievements in space sector are a glaring evidence of Indian technological capabilities. India’s educated, English-speaking youth with a technical bent of mind attracts many technology giants to India.

This agreement serves interests of both countries. Certain segments of Indian politics have cautioned that India should not antagonize China which has been very concerned about these developments. The UPA government was also cautious about the sensitivities of both Russia and China and that it why it has taken years to happen. Modi has indicated willingness to forge a closer strategic relationship with Washington.

As said earlier this agreement has a very wide canvas and huge strategic implications shall be seen against the backdrop of evolving great power politics of the 21st century as the focus has been quickly shifting to Asia- Pacific.

Contributor: Sachin Diwaker

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