Defence, India: international relations
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Military logistics pacts
As in 2020
India is fast inking reciprocal military logistics pacts with like-minded countries to extend its strategic and naval operational reach in the entire Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond, with an eye firmly on China’s expansionist behaviour in the Indo-Pacific.
India inked the mutual logistics support arrangement with Australia.
A military logistics pact with Japan next
India had signed similar logistics support agreements with the US, France, South Korea and Singapore. That’s not all. India is set to ink a military logistics pact with Japan next, while similar agreements with Russia and UK are also being negotiated, said sources. “The MLSA will enable our warships to get refuelling from Australian tankers on the high seas, while also availing of berthing, maintenance and storage facilities at Australian naval bases. It will, of course, be on a reciprocal basis,” said a source.
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) inked with the US in 2016 similarly gives India refuelling facilities and access to American bases in Djibouti, Diego Garcia, Guam and Subic Bay. The one inked with France in 2018, in turn, extends the Indian Navy’s reach in south-western Indian Ocean Region due to French bases in the Reunion Islands near Madagascar and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
“The MLSA with Australia will help us to extend the reach of our warships in southern IOR as well as the western Pacific region. The region south of the Indonesian Straits is also important for us,” said the source.
The pacts are crucial for India against the backdrop of China fast expanding its strategic footprint in the IOR after its first overseas military base at Djibouti became operational in August 2017. Chinaalso has access to Karachi and Gwadar ports in Pakistan for turnaround facilities for its submarines and warships. It is also trying for military bases in Cambodia, Vanuatu and other countries to further consolidate its presence in the Indo-Pacific.
China has six to eight warships deployed in the IOR at any given time. It has commissioned over 80 warships in the last six years.
Though India is yet to formally invite Australia to join the trilateral Malabar naval exercise it conducts with the US and Japan, India is steadily cranking up its bilateral military engagements with the country. India and Australia conducted their biggest-ever naval exercise called “AusIndEx” to “build inter-operability” off the Visakhapatnam coast in April lin 2019.