The signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) for exchange of military logistics services between India and the US is unlikely to happen during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US next month. The progress on other major agreements announced last month during US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit is also very slow.
The highlight of Carter’s visit to India in early April was the in-principle announcement by the two countries to sign LEMOA, an agreement which will allow the militaries of either country to avail logistics facilities on other’s bases as per an established process, provided the two sides agree to it. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had then announced that no further comments can be made till the draft of LEMOA is returned by the defence ministry to Pentagon, which he expected to take around four weeks.
Senior defence ministry sources, however, told The Indian Express that the draft of LEMOA has still not been shared with the Pentagon. “The process of inter-ministerial consultations is on and our effort is to conclude it as early as possible. We are hopeful of signing it in the near future. But there is no chance of LEMOA being signed during the Prime Minister’s visit,” a senior official said.
The Pentagon had sent the draft of LEMOA in January itself, which was negotiated by the defence ministry with a legal team from Pentagon in February this year. Defence ministry confirmed that it had received the drafts in January, and had undertaken negotiations with the team from Pentagon.
“Drafts of the agreements, including LEMOA were delivered in the third week of January and we had a team of experts visit in the first week of February. They discussed each agreement with the members of MEA and MOD at the Joint Secretary level. JS(AMS) and JS(PIC) had received these drafts, besides others, and the drafts were also with the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy,”-US defence sources involved in the negotiation of agreements.
The LEMOA agreement is based on the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) signed by the US with its closest allies. The LSA has been tailored to reflect India’s concerns, where the language has been amended, as per Indian officials, “to reinforce the non-contractual nature of the agreement”.
According to American sources, “there were minor changes in the text suggested during the negotiations. Sometimes we got the feeling if flying a team of lawyers from Pentagon to Delhi was really worth it.”
Carter had also announced the finalization of a White Shipping Agreement between India and the US, which also got delayed after the senior Pentagon official dealing with it, canceled his trip to Delhi this month. According to Navy officials, “We already have a similar agreement with five countries and see no problems here. This agreement though will be signed by the Shipping ministry.”
Another item mentioned during Carter’s Delhi visit was the Aircraft Carrier Working Group established between the two navies, which is also unlikely to see any progress. This was to allow the transfer of American technologies to Indian Navy for the construction of its second indigenous aircraft carrier. While US officials expect the information exchange annexure to be shared by India in a couple of months’ time, Indian Navy officials have told that this will have to await the finalization of their own Project Report.
The Ministry of Defence has allotted Rs 25 crore to study and prepare a project report for the second indigenous aircraft carrier. A team of three officers, under a Rear Admiral, is working on the study. Once finalized, the report will freeze the navy’s requirement, thereby allowing it to prepare the information exchange annexure to be shared with the US, sources in the navy said.
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