No LEMOA — possible reasons

The Logistics Support Agreement the US has been keen on and which the visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter had hoped to sign, has been put off. This despite advance notices in the media of the draft-Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), a watered down variant of the standard LSA providing restrictive, case-by-case, access for the deployed military of each side to the other’s military bases for replenishment and R&R purposes, being ready for signature. However, LSA is “tweaked” it will still bear the taint of a formal military partnership, will be used more by US forces in the IOR theater than Indian forces will use American bases and, hence, will always be one-sided. Moreover, where’s the need for such an agreement tying India down, willy-nilly, to the US strategic camp when in these past many years, US assets have been refueled and replenished on an as and when requested-basis w/o any formal accord?

So, the signing of LEMOA is postponed. That’s a relief for the nonce. A last minute rethink may have been occasioned for the followings reasons: (1) It would have raised a political storm. However tattered the country’s unaligned status, deciding so overtly to go over to the US side, as it were, reduces hugely India’s room for policy maneuver. (2) The troubling transfer of F-16s and Viper attack helos to Pakistan in the face of Delhi voicing its discomfiture, suggests Washington’s ongoing military supply relationship with Islamabad is unlikely to be moderated even a bit whatever closeness may be achieved by higher degrees of military cooperation. Meaning in practical policy terms, while the US retains its policy latitude, India losses its freedom of action. (3) China can be kept quiet with fluid and contingent partnerships of the kind India has tried out, including with Southeast Asian states, Japan, Taiwan, Russia, and US, perhaps, far better than by signing on with the US. And most importantly (5) It will really throw a monkey wrench into the hardy and resilient Indo-Russian relations. Moscow had formally warned Delhi that should it sign CISMOA, for instance, the Akula-II in service with the Indian Navy would be immediately pulled, and the 2nd such SSN — the Iribis, will, of course, not be lent to India, and the transfer of other more advanced Russian military hardware could also be affected. Why specifically the Akula pullout? Because, per sources, the Russians fear that the air-to-submarine communications, which this agreement will technically facilitate, will permit the Americans to spoof the communications hardware on the ex-Russian SSN, etc., a risk the Russians are unwilling to take notwithstanding any assurances in this regard at any level by the Indian state. The ending of a Russian role in the country’s strategic armaments field will be a singular development, and perhaps grievously hurt India’s strategic posture in the future. This warning may have led to the draft- CISMOA, which was also negotiated, being put on ice.

Indira Gandhi signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in summer 1971 as cover for the military operations she expected to launch in East Pakistan later in the year. But she successfully prevented Moscow in subsequent years from using this document as a tool for Russian navy to gain permanent military access to India’s warm water ports — despite sustained political and diplomatic pressure from President Leonid Brezhnev. It is precisely military access when required that the US too seeks some 45 years later, except the Bharatiya Janata Party government of Narendra Modi, over-tilting to the West, is not proving as adroit in maintaining distance from the US or in balancing American, Russian and Chinese influences. Modi seems smitten by America (and the West, generally), and losing the plot on how to further the national interest. LEMOA is the thin edge of the wedge. It will be used by Washington to widen the US military and other presence in India, which an over-committed Modi, a little too gung-ho on the supposed technology benefits of getting close to America, will be unable to resist.

Before the prime minister proceeds down a ruinous path that will terminally hobble India, he should get some credible persons, even if informally, to do an objective analysis of the comparative levels of military technology the country has procured from the US and Russia, and if Russian tech TOT deals haven’t fructified, whether it is not the extant DPSU and public sector dominated-mil R&D system and entrenched arms import lobby to blame, and whether his “make in India” programme really needs such treaty intimacy with the US for it to prosper. Of course, if such a study is tasked to the usual lot of compromised, retired and serving, civil servants, MEA diplomats, and militarymen, we already know what their conclusions will be, and it will be a wasted effort.

Modi, Parrikar, and those advising them should pause and consider if they are doing the right thing by the country in light of the historical record of India’s relations with the United States, and US’ own interests in the immediate region and Asia, and its overarching deep political and economic interlinkages with China. Modi is here today, may not be here tomorrow, but India will always be there. Don’t do anything, Mr Prime Minister, that will harm India’s prospects.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Culture, Defence Industry, domestic politics, DRDO, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Indian ecobomic situation, Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Indian Politics, Japan, Military Acquisitions, Northeast Asia, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Relations with Russia, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, society, South Asia, Strategic Forces Command, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Technology transfer, United States, US., Weapons, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to No LEMOA — possible reasons

  1. In western mind subcontinent was only a resource to be used. This continues to date. Creation of Pakistan was after all supported by west to get access to bases in NWFP. It would be most foolish for us to get into such agreement even if reciprocal. Political disaster for BJP.

  2. Bharat karnadji,
    I do no about this Lemoa.But you talk as if without Russia India cannot progress in Technology.Russia has only vetted the designs of our missiles and helped us develop an obsolete Nuclear submarine.The technology inside the missiles was developed by us on our own.We can make fututristic missiles even without Russians and as far as Nuclear Submarine
    is concerned even after making Arihant submarine India cannot on its own develop a conventional Submarine.
    IF INDIA WANTS TO BE INDEPENDENT IN SUBMARINE DESIGN BASE, THEN THE ONLY COUNTRY WHICH WILL come and help India is USA.For India in order to design submarines we need the kind of help America gave us in designing LCA, German MBB helped us in designing DHRUV helicopter and GERMAN Krauss Maffei helped us in Designing Arjun Tank.THIS IS THE KIND OF HELP WE NEED IN DESIGNING SUBMARINE ON OUR OWN.Now Russia will not help India in designing and making a Submarine becasue they want to sell us their Amur(Lada) garbage.Their industry is too dependent on exports to help India became self-reliant in Submarine design base.THIS IS LIKE KILLING A HEN WHICH GIVES GOLDEN EGGS.

    • How is LSA related to tech transfer and what makes confident that any country will givebus latest technology anyways. US doesnt pass latest tech even to its allies. The real test of US sincerity(which they have already failed) was the terrorism directed against India from Pakistan. If Mureedke is not on crosshairs of predators only FATA is, then expecting much to comeout of this LSA is foolish. USA will easily persuade India to gives its bases when need arrises but it would be foolish to expect reciprocity from them. There is no expectation that any of their assets will be at our disposal in any war that we fight which is not initiated by USA. Hence this agreement is a dead letter for us.

      What Bharat has not mentioned is the Iran angle. 10 years from now if Iran US or Saudi relations deterorate. We will be in a fix and be drawn into something we dont want.

      We should not anyhow trust a future Indian government to resist US pressure and not get drawn into such an endeavor, if we cant make the current government to stay away from such commitments as LSA.

      Either accept to be second fiddle to world powers for perpetuity. Saying we want to remain a ‘bridge’ or a ‘conduit’ or a ‘battle ground’ for world powers. Or we want to eventually take leadership role on our terms hence cant take second fiddle roles to any world power.

      There are no half measures. Diplomacy for India would be to fend of such deadly embraces with ‘strings attached’
      and at the same time cooperating with world powers to be able to grow our own capabilities.

      I strongly feel we need a leader with no international ambitions in order to grow our capability. A leader with total domestic focus with no interest in being called a world leader is needed so that there is no opportunity for ego massaging by international diplomats which gets us wrapped in such detrimental treaties.

      • &^%$#@! says:

        Well said WRT: “I strongly feel we need a leader with no international ambitions in order to grow our capability. A leader with total domestic focus with no interest in being called a world leader is needed so that there is no opportunity for ego massaging by international diplomats which gets us wrapped in such detrimental treaties”.

        This is a very important point, which is usually overlooked. India needs modernist with a string domestic focus, and no grand delusions of being an “international figure”, or standing by debilitating “international commitments”, or ensuring that India is a “responsible country in the international community”………

    • quickboy says:

      Hope you are physically and psychologically well. If U.S never existed on earth, There wont be any Pakistan or their terrorists in this world after 1971. As for technology, You should know very well that every Aircraft, missile Rocket of Liquid propulsion engine this country is now blah…blahing is mostly transferred Russian tech in one form or other. Well also we do have our “OWN” submarine too. Nothing Americans provided on that too, Russian tech includes the old MIG-21/27/25/29 SU-30 or whatever. By allying with U.S you are allying with every country including SAUDI/QATAR/JORDAN/PAKISTAN, well name another decent one and surprise me. I personally “DO NOT” want to be a military ally of any of these.

  3. MS says:

    Can I still comment when you have said already what I too believe in-other than just voicing my support. I too would worry that India would become a weak state if we alienate Russia… in fact in such a bad state that we will not where to go just in case both China and Pak start posturing.

    Our leaders are smitten by the west while the west is awed by China. What a scene! Chinese must be laughing at us seeing us clueless despite that have laid a clear path for quick economic progress.

    We are so self conscious that when our leaders go to US, we do not compliment the American people and the country enough-why can’t we shower praise like Americans do on us.

    For technology transfer to take place we have to do a little different than China perhaps. We have to engage ignited minds(late Mr Kalam’s word) of the private world to colloborate in a big way with DRDO. And not just the big private groups but develop small companies who have the fire in the belly. Getting CDs of technology will not work-no body is interested unless engaged directly.

  4. Edelbert Badwar says:

    You are right.The present govt. is over tilting to the west.Rather than becoming a superpower we will be turned into a supplicant like the sushi eating Japanese.

    • entropy says:

      I like sushi, Japanese are only supplicant of there own will. They will throw the US out any time if, the need arises. It is only a peice of paper. (the treaty between them)
      As far as India is concerned. It is the economy stupid.

  5. quickboy says:

    BUt the press seems to suggest it is going to be done see below

    . And of course the strong PM we elected to make India stronger seems to be becoming just as much infatuated with U.S, like the IAF infatuation with French fighter jets (even if it means choking the entire Nation). Well maybe time to say no to BJP and it’s American allies. These things will alienate the last countable ally this country has “RUSSIA” and why would they care or transfer any tech to us when we are more of an ally of U.S?. Which will make us an ally of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Pakistan too.!!!. Modi’s Saudi lunch is already showing results, Iran is now cozying up with PAK?. It is time Modiji told the Nation what does he actually want?. If it is all for a petty U.S visa, He should know that he is now PM and no one can refuse Visa to go for a U.N meet anyway.

    India, US agree ‘in principle’ to sign logistics support pact

    Now a youtube video poasted by “THE HINDU”
    One man here seems to suggest the “TRUST” , I really wonder whose trust?. Not me, I’am born in 1968, So brought up with the stories of many uncles and cousins who served in military in 1962, 65 and 71 war time. They all only told me horror stories of how U.S has been harrassing this Country and What language the almighty Nixon and Kissinger used to describe our PM and our country then, Where did the TRUST come from anyway?. Even our current PM has really no reason to build any TRUST on U.S, This is a country which proffered to describe him has a violator of Human rights and what else. Is Our PM suffering from some disease of forgetfulness?.

    India and US agree to sign Logistics agreement LEMOA ; No Clarity yet on CISMOA and BECA

    Times Of India says :——US troops can use Indian bases:

    As an ordinary, very ordinary Indian, I would say these type of alliance with a country which is a known enemy of India and our way of life , makes BJP very vulnerable in 2019. maybe even before that.

  6. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Perhaps the most important point to think over is that Modi ji, is not going to remain PM for ever. US has sold out its own allies like Tibetans, Tiwanese and Japanese in the last few decades.

    LSA/LEMOA has the perfect makings of a storm just the way the 123 agreement started by NDA, became a noose around our neck during the following UPA regime. That too without any ENR tech flowing our way (instead stifling development of several of our own technologies). Its 2 years now since Modi govt has changed the rules of the game by using domestic insurance exposure for international trade in strategic technologies. And what is the result – Japan is now asking for a separate 123 agreement of its own. Pretty soon Australia too will ask us for the same. So what have we gotten from this? Before 1947 we were supplying troops for imperialbazzi, completely unable and incapable of protecting our youth and today we have to ask our youth to go enslave their future to every two bit country.

    And all that for an outdated MMRCA or a Carrier Hull. An MMRCA that has already failed the tests. A Hull which we can already make and need no support for.

    The team advising Modi ji has completely ignored the fact that the US traditionally has betrayed its own allies. If continental europe is a dying Islamabad replica then it is because of US. If Taiwan has no subs today it is because of US. If Japs have no nukes today (despite several tons of Plutonium) then it is because of the US. If UK is unable/incapable of making its own SLBM, then it is because of the US. Even the most courageous of allies, the Australian, on and off begin to suck upto the Chinese. What do we get from LEMOA? Dollar reimbursements of TA/DA expenses?

  7. &^%$#@! says:

    I do not think we’ve seen the last of LEMOA, CISMAO,… My guess is that the Indian side will rush LEMOA through without warning and too much publicity within the next 1-3 months. Further, signing of treaties does not have to go through Parliament. I believe, the Indian side is just biding for time to allow whatever internal little opposition was there to these agreements to subside and somehow try to gag any further opposition, and then make its move in a rare display of alacrity.

    • &^%$#@! says:


      2. Last sentence should read as:” I believe, the Indian side is just biding for time to allow whatever feeble internal opposition was there to these agreements to subside and somehow try to gag any further opposition, and then make its move in a rare display of alacrity.”

  8. ~!@#$%^*()_+ says:

    See this is why LSA or LEMOA or CISMOA or any other four lettered treaty with western countries should be a no go zone.

    1) US and India already share intel for IOR region.
    2) US then begins to push for a formal arrangement.
    3) Indian side accepts it.
    4) Then after the arrangement lapse the US guys come in again with a formalization requirement for an even larger Intel sharing arrangement which ostensibly includes Libya (already killed by US) and North Korea (saved only because of China) and Iran (next target). In essence, an Five Eyes kind of arrangement.
    5) Indian side rejects it but only with lame excuses. Again essentially leaving the door open for future sell outs.

    Reality is Iranian oil works out cheaper for India even after the Sanctions and India has had to jump hoops for that oil. We were not even allowed to pay for the oil that we had already used. All because of the US interference in our babudom and internal politics.

    Today after the Iranian Nuke deal has been completed and the Iranians are looking to diversify by selling Oil.

    And Our Friends in the Defence department have decided that we must have a formal intel bitching arrangement for Iran. So much for the ceaseless refrain on the net that Defence department is friend and only the State department is a problem for India.

    Reality also is that Iranians are looking to claw back into the considerably shrunk Oil markets. Our companies can easily expect to strike Exploration and Refining deals. But no sir, we are simply expected to roll over and die so that the cheaper oil can flow westwards or wherever the hell but certainly not into India.


    The last link actually notes as follows:
    “To be sure, low oil prices deny Tehran much needed revenue but unlike the Saudis, Iran’s economy is not solely dependent on oil exports. Oil revenue accounts for about 15% of Iran’s GDP,” Handjani told the Guardian. Sanctions have forced Iran to diversify its economy, he said. It has a large manufacturing base, IT sector, and robust agro-industries, which make its economy on the whole “much more balanced” than Saudi Arabia.

    “The Iranian economy has absorbed so many shocks over the past 36 years, from war to sanctions, that the pain of low oil prices now, as it breaks from international isolation, pales in comparison.”

    Without naming Saudi Arabia, Zanganeh said last week that it was clear which country had an excess of supply and that there was “no ambiguity about who they are”. On the occasion of unveiling new oil contracts, the Iranian minister said last month that his country was willing to play a major role in oil supply and was even ready to work with American companies. “The way for the presence of these companies in Iran’s oil industry is open,” he said at the Iran Petroleum Contracts Conference in Tehran.

    The deputy managing director of the national Iranian oil company (NIOC) told the Guardian in September that the Iranian government was earning more from tax than oil for the first time in almost half a century as the country shifts its traditional reliance on crude to taxation revenues in the face of falling oil prices. Critics say Iran is unlikely to maintain that equation when the lifting of sanctions allows it to export more oil.”

  9. Pingback: Three Indian schools of thought on the India—US partnership | Logos

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