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.
The Indian Express has also learnt that 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 told The Indian Express.
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 finalisation of a White Shipping Agreement between India and the US, which also got delayed after the senior Pentagon official dealing with it, cancelled 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 The Indian Express that this will have to await the finalisation 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 finalised, 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.