NEW DELHI —
The U.S. and India have agreed “in principle” to share military logistics, but a formal agreement will not be finalized for “the next few weeks,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Tuesday.
The Logistic Support Agreement (LSA) will give both militaries access to each other's bases for repair and resupplies. It would make coordination more “seamless,” according to a senior defense official, by allowing the U.S. to easily sell India fuel and provide equipment parts.
India and the U.S. did come to an agreement Tuesday to initiate two new technology co-development projects – one on digital helmet displays and another on biological detection systems, Carter said at a news conference with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi.
Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar told reporters another major agreement, one involving the sharing of aircraft carrier technology, would need “one or two more meetings” to finish.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, center right, laughs with Indian naval officers as he arrives at the Karwar naval base in India to visit the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, April 11, 2016.
The Indian naval fleet currently includes two aircraft carriers. India’s military is planning to develop a third aircraft carrier that will be built in India by 2028, according to a senior Indian defense official.
India’s two aircraft carriers use a flight deck with a ramp to launch jets into the air, while the U.S. uses a flat-deck carrier design that has an aircraft catapult to launch jets off the ship.
While India has not yet decided which aircraft will be used on the new aircraft carrier, a senior U.S. defense official said a jet like the F-18, which uses catapult technology to take off, “would be very attractive.”
Increased military relations
The United States has gone from no defense sales to India just a few years ago, to more than $14 billion in defense sales at present, according to a senior U.S. official.
Carter said some of the developing military technology agreements are “unique to India” and based on “complete trust.”
“We don’t have arrangements like that with anyone else around the world, and most of our technology sharing arrangements with India are at the level or above the level of our oldest and closest friends … for example the United Kingdom,” Carter told reporters.
Later in the day, Carter met with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
U.S. officials stressed that pursuing the LSA and carrier agreements, however, is more about the strategic importance of India as a regional ally that shares American values.
“It’s never been about sales as far as we’re concerned,” a senior defense official said, “It’s been about the relationship.”