Washington: India and the US on Monday signed an important agreement to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for repair and resupply, taking a step toward reinforcing defence ties as they seek to counter an aggressive China.
“The US has agreed to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners,” said a joint statement after the pact was signed.
At a press conference with US Defence Secretary Ash Carter, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the agreement will allow the Indian and US navies to have an easier time supporting each other in joint operations and exercises and when providing humanitarian assistance.
The agreement is seen as a milestone in the India-US defence relationship because of the outsized political importance it had taken on in India, where concerns were raised over whether the country’s autonomy would be undermined. But both leaders made it clear that the logistics agreement did not allow the basing of US troops in India.
The signing of the agreement will “make the logistics of joint operations so much easier and so much more efficient,” said Mr Carter. Washington’s desire for deeper security cooperation with India had been complicated without the signing of the logistics agreement as well as two other pacts that would allow secure communications and the exchange of nautical and other data.
Mr Parrikar’s visit to Washington this week marks his sixth interaction with Mr Carter, who has made closer military ties with India a priority and also established a special unit within the Pentagon last year for this.
Without naming China, both leaders mentioned the importance of the free flow of trade to both countries. “India and the United States have a shared interest in freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce as part of rule-based order in (the) Indo-Pacific,” Mr Parrikar said.
During his stay in the US, Mr Parrikar will visit Boeing’s manufacturing facility at Philadelphia. He would also interact with American defence industry representatives at an event organised by the US-India Business Council.
Mr Parrikar was welcomed with an enhanced honor cordon by Mr Carter as he arrived at the Pentagon on Monday, which is reserved for valued guests.