Defence cooperation and deals: The lodestar of India-US relations


  • India
  • Tuesday, 25 Feb 2020

US President Donald Trump looks on as Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, speaks during a news conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday (Feb 25). Trump touted "tremendous progress" on a trade deal with India as he sought to strengthen ties with a country key to American efforts to blunt China's influence in Asia. - Bloomberg

NEW DELHI: Growing defence cooperation has acted as a driving force behind India-US ties which transformed after the turn of the millennium following President Bill Clinton’s landmark visit to the country.

Defence relations including arms sales and counter-terrorism cooperation have been on an upswing under the successive Indian and US governments despite disputes in other areas like trade and tariffs.

The US now conducts more military exercises with India than with any other non-NATO partner.

In his speech in Ahmedabad, Trump put defence ties and military exercises at the top of his agenda, referring to "Tiger Triumph," the first-ever air, land and sea military exercises between the militaries of the two countries.

From next to nothing, the US has emerged as the leading defence supplier to India including fighter jets and howitzers with estimates of between US$17bil and US$20bil in such deals since 2007.

Three billion dollars in defence purchases were announced after the talks on Tuesday (Feb 25), while additional deals topping US$7bil are in the pipeline.

The closer defence cooperation takes place against the background of an ever-closer embrace between the two nations wary of aggressive postures by China in the Asia-Pacific region.

But the going has not always been smooth. The US has been irked by India's signing of major defence deals with Russia which has traditionally been New Delhi's leading supplier of military hardware.

Besides joint exercises for the greater inter-operability of forces to enhancing cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region, India and the US have also signed crucial military pacts.

Talks will reportedly begin next month on the Basic Exchange Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA), that enables the exchange of geospatial information between the two countries, enhancing the efficiency of the US platforms currently being operated by India.

India and the US are likely to ink the BECA agreement by next year, which will serve as the third key foundational defence agreement after the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).

The LEMOA, which allows the Indian and US defence forces to use each other's military facilities and establishes procedures for easier access to supplies and services required by them, was inked in 2016.

COMCASA, which gives India access to advanced communication technology and allows real-time information sharing between their militaries, was signed last year. - dpa/Asian News Network
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