US, India sign military logistics agreement

WASHINGTON: The United States and India signed an agreement on Monday to allow the use of each other’s land, air and naval bases for repair and resupply, a step toward building defence ties as they seek to counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.

The signing of the agreement will “make the logistics of joint operations so much easier and so much more efficient,” US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said in a news briefing with Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday.

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 for secure communications and the exchange of nautical and other data. The agreements are considered routine between the United States and its other defence partners.

India has had concerns a logistics agreement would commit it to hosting US troops at its bases, or draw it into a military alliance with the United States and undermine its traditional autonomy. Carter and Parrikar reached an agreement “in principle” in April, but had yet to finalise the details.

The US military has made clear it wants to do more with India, especially in countering China, which US officials say is risking conflict through aggressive claims on the South China Sea, a vital trade waterway.

Carter has made military ties with India a priority, and established a special unit within the Pentagon last year to promote cooperation with that country. Without naming China, both Carter and Parrikar 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,” Parrikar said.