The 10-year Indo-US Defence Framework (DF) signed on 28 June 2005 whose importance has been re-emphasised in the July 18 agreement, presents India with a mix of challenges and opportunities (FORCE, August 2005). Probably, the biggest challenge for India will be to determine its own defence and military priorities rather than follow those of the US that will be predicated on its strategic and geo-political objectives. Considering that India has not entered into a military alliance, but has engaged itself in a partnership with the US, it should not be difficult for New Delhi to do so. But it will be easier said than done for three reasons. One, India is not known to be firm when faced with the US demands. Two, with increased across-the-board engagement, India’s stakes in refusing US’ demands will rise. And three, working with the US military for stability in Asia will give a big boost to India’s standing in the region.
China and Pakistan are already resentful of India being addressed as a major power by the US.
What the US ultimately desires from the DF is ‘combined operations’. This means a whole lot of things from inter-operability, to understanding of doctrines and procedures, commonality in combat hardware, joint planning and training, understanding each other’s military ethos and a close rapport and trust at operational levels. This undoubtedly will take years to build. The US official, Ashley J. Tellis writes that, ‘A formal agreement has the advantage of engendering stable cooperation, defining formally understood obligations, and leading to increases in mutual confidence that could pave the way for more ambitious combined operations.’ Once fully accomplished, the DF will raise the level of bilateral military cooperation to what the US has with Japan, Australia and South Korea in Asia.