New Delhi, Nov. 8: Practically recognising India as a “great power” in Asia, the US is fitting India into its global military grid by inviting India’s navy, air force and space outfit to step out “beyond national jurisdiction”, a fact sheet the White House put out today has said.
The Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force are likely to become more visible worldwide as a result of such an understanding.
Traditionally, the Indian military since the Second World War has hesitated to go in for “expeditionary” or “out of area” (OOA) operations unless they are under the UN flag.
The White House fact sheets and the joint statement do not mention China but the commitments in them will inevitably lead to an intensive military-to-military co-operation with the US, India and East Asian countries in China’s neighbourhood.
The joint statement of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reflects this strategic lift to India without using the words “beyond national jurisdiction”. This commitment to closer military-to-military ties is set to immediately concern China though Beijing has not come out with any official comment so far.
The Indian Army has operated beyond national boundaries only under a UN flag (barring in Sri Lanka and in the Maldives) but the navy has been sustaining an active counter-piracy patrol off the east coast of Africa for nearly two years.
“President Obama and Prime Minister Singh agreed that in an increasingly interconnected world, it is vital to safeguard areas of the sea, air and space beyond national jurisdiction to ensure the security and prosperity of nations,” the White House fact sheet said.
The joint statement phrases it like this: “In an increasingly inter-dependent world, the stability of, and access to, the air, sea, space and cyberspace domains is vital for the security and economic prosperity of nations.
“Acknowledging their commitment to openness and responsible international conduct, and on the basis of their shared values, India and the US have launched a dialogue to promote peace, security and development. The leaders reaffirmed the importance of maritime security, unimpeded commerce, and freedom of navigation in accordance with relevant universally agreed principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes.”
The strategic lift comes despite silence from the two sides on the “foundational agreements” on defence co-operation — the Logistics Support Agreement and the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), pacts that US officials say are still on the table.
By working around these pacts to craft the statement issued today, the US has opened up the possibility of a co-operation with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force that is as intensive as its engagements with such East Asian countries as South Korea and Japan.
President Obama is scheduled to visit those countries too on this tour. These commitments promise a strengthening of the military grid that the US is sustaining in Asia — a military grid that has recently seen friction between China and the US Navy in the South China Sea.
“The United States welcomes, in particular, India’s leadership in expanding prosperity and security across the region. The two leaders agreed to deepen existing strategic consultations on developments in East Asia, and decided to expand and intensify their strategic consultations to cover regional and global issues of mutual interest, including Central and West Asia,” the statement said.
India-US defence co-operation in recent years have often driven the strategic partnership, the two sides believe.
“The two countries resolved to further strengthen defence co-operation, including through security dialogue, exercises and promoting trade and collaboration in defence equipment and technology. President Obama welcomed India’s decision to purchase high-technology defence items, which strengthens our strengthening bilateral defence relations and will contribute to creating jobs in the US,” the statement said.
This has led to immediate speculation on the military hardware that India has promised to buy from the US. One of the biggest military deals up for grabs today is an estimated $12-billion purchase by the Indian Air Force of 126 combat jets.
But there are six competitors — including two from the US — who are being evaluated now and each of them is backed by their governments – Sweden, the US, a consortium of western European countries, Russia and France.