Indo-US defence agreements and military exercises are steps towards a robust bilateral relationship
From former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1959 visit to India to the recent 36-hour state visit of President Donald J. Trump, the US has come a long way in strengthening bilateral ties with India. And this is truer of the US advancing defence trade relationship with India, thus paving the way for a broader security partnership.
With agreements like Industrial Security Annex (ISA), Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA) in place, defence cooperation between the two countries continues to expand and evolve over the course of time.
However, negotiations are still underway for concluding Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) which would facilitate exchange of geospatial information between India and the US for both military and civilian use.
The two countries also expanded defence cooperation worth over USD3 billion about which Trump said, “will enhance our joint defence capabilities.”
“We expanded our defence cooperation with agreements for India to purchase more than USD3 billion of advanced American military equipment, including Apache and MH-60 Romeo Helicopters. These will enhance our joint defence capabilities,” said Trump during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Modi following US-India delegation-level talks.
Just ahead of Trump’s two-day state visit to India, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had approved the acquisition of these choppers.
India was designated as a Major Defence Partner by the US in June 2016, affording it the highest consideration for procurement and technology transfer purposes. This is kind of a bespoke status for India.
India and the US also hold regular joint military drills or war games such as Tiger Triumph, Yudh Abhyas, and Vajra Prahar, thus enhancing interoperability between the forces of two countries.
The two countries have also decided to strengthen consultation via various mechanism already in place namely — the India-US-Japan trilateral summits; the 2+2 ministerial meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of India and the US; and the India-US-Australia-Japan Quadrilateral consultations, among others.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi maintained that increasing defence and security cooperation between India and the US is a ‘very important’ part of their strategic partnership.
“India’s defence capacity has increased through collaboration on state-of-the-art defence equipment and platforms. Our defence manufacturers are becoming part of each other’s supply chains. Indian forces are doing more training exercises today with the forces of the US. In the last few years, there has been an unprecedented increase in interoperability between our forces,” PM Modi said during a joint press conference with US President Donald Trump at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.
Here is a brief description of the foundational defence agreements between the two countries:
Industrial Security Annex
During the 2nd edition of the 2+2 dialogue held in December 2019, India and the US agreed to further expand their defence ties and concluded the crucial Industrial Security Annex (ISA) which aids in facilitating the exchange of classified military information between Indian and the US defence industries.
The government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ initiative lays special emphasis on transfer of technology and to allow the same for building combat jets locally and other joint ventures, the US had sought guarantees for the protection of classified information as well as its technology. The 2+2 ministerial is the highest-level institutional mechanism between the two countries and provides for a review of the security, defence and strategic partnership between India and the US. Secure communication lines have been established between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries.
Although the US already has such agreements in place with several countries, the ISA which is a part of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), would be the first time New Delhi has entered into such a pact with any country. Under GSOMIA, which India and the US signed in 2002, such information is exchanged between the government authorities of the two countries but not between private parties and now this will enable greater industry-to-industry collaboration for co-production and co-development in the defence sector.
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