Under PM Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure, the Military cooperation between the US and India took a Lift. His visit to the US from June 11-15, 1985 was a turning point in Indo-US Political Strategic Relations & that resulted in the signing of MoU between the two countries that became the basis of approval for the sale of $1.2 billion worth of advanced dual-use technology to India.With the visit of two US Defense Secretaries Casper Weinberger and Frank Carlucci, to India in 1986 and 1988 marked a new phase of increased understanding between the two countries in defence and strategic co-operation and culminated in the setting up of ‘mission areas discussions’ between the defense establishment of the US and India with the goal of increasing military co-operation and sales of military equipment and technology.
US supported India’s move to send Indian Peace Keeping Forces (IPKF) into Sri Lanka in July 1987 and praised her role in the Maldives in January 1988.The Indo US military cooperation got further boost with the visit of Lt Gen Claude M Kicklighter ( Commander-in-Chief , US Army Pacific Command) & his proposals famously called ”Kicklighter Proposals” became the key element in transforming India US defense relations.The proposals detailed the exchanges between the respective services of both the countries and scope for the further defense cooperation.As part of the proposal, Joint Steering Groups were established between the three services of both countries.In 1992 both countries hosted their first-ever joint military exercise.An Agreed Minute on Defence Cooperation was signed during the India visit of US Defence Secy William Perry & MoS (Defence) Mallikarjun Goud in between January 12-14, 1995 which opened the defense cooperation for the next 10 years to come.if Bush’s administration had a strong will to cooperate with India & used Pressler amendment to put pressure on Pakistan to stop low-intensity conflict in Kashmir, the coming of Clinton administration revoked the sanctions with Brown’s amendment to restore $368 million military aid to Pakistan which India opposed and brought in human rights violation issues in Kashmir which was earlier being given up by Bush’s administration.Even the US made some preconditions for India l, to sign CTBT( Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) ,negotiate Fissile Material Cut off Treaty & maintain a nonthreatening defence posture to improve bilateral ties. & with the India’s second nuclear bomb test in 1998, the US imposed military & economic sanctions ,that further dented their bilateral relationship.Under George W Bush’s administration ,US opened up the lost link between its relationship with India ,when in its National Security Strategy ,2002 it decided to transform its bilateral relationship based on the common shared interests which included free flow of commerce in sea lanes of Indian Ocean, Combating Terrorism, Creating a Strategically Stable Asia.As US got readied to sell AN/TPQ-37 Fire Finder counter-battery artillery radar sets worth $150 million to India in 2002 , it marked the beginning of a new chapter in Indo-US military cooperation & a Security Cooperation Group (SCG) was constituted to coordinate and expedite defense deals.
US National Security Strategy 2002 described India as” One of the greatest democratic Powers of 21st Century” & the two sides setup a High Technology Cooperation Group in December 2002 was hurriedly upgraded to Next Stop for Strategic Partnership ( NSSP) from January 2004 The 2005 agreement enjoined both sides to collaborate in 13 specific areas & a renewed 10 year New Defence Framework Agreement was signed between the then india’s MoD Pranab Mukherjee & the US Defence Secy Donald Rumsfeld at Washington DC which reinforced their strategic partnership and peeved the way for conducting bilateral exercises & exchanges alongwith the creation of the Defence Policy Group ( to guide strategic defence relationship) & Defence Procurement & Production Group ( to figure out the areas of Codevelopment & Co production).While the agreement helped India to make purchase of some critical equipment like C 130 J Super Hercules,C 17 Globemaster III heavy-lift aircrafts for Airforce along with P8i Poseidon (Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance) aircraft for Indian Navy worth $10 billion ,majority of the proposals in the agreement were left to the paper due to the inactions of the then MoD Mr. AK Antony.India also began conducting bilateral military exercises with US military forces: Ex YUDH ABHYAS ( Army) , Ex MALABAR ( Navy), Ex COPE India ( Airforce) , Ex VAJRA PRAHAR (Special Forces) .In 2012 ,the Defence Technology Trade Initiative (DTTI) in which the United States proposed 17 projects with potential for collaboration,but India felt the intiative lacks any substantial transfer of technology and hence it was left in the limbo , to be later reinvigorated by the US Defence Secy Ashton Carter & as a result during the 3 day visit from 25-27January 2015 of the US President Barack Obama to India to attend India’s Republic day parade , in his joint statement with India’s PM Narendra Modi announced 4 Pathfinder projects to open up the scope of Codevelopment & Coproduction of defence types of equipment & they are:- 1. Next-generation Raven unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), “roll-on, roll-off” intelligence-gathering.2. Reconnaissance modules for C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.3. Mobile electric hybrid power sources .4. Uniform integrated protection ensemble increment-2 (chemical, biological warfare protection gear for soldiers)”.However small they may seem in terms of technology cooperation, but their final implementation in terms of actual co-development & Coproduction will make sense.Still, the negotiations over the possible purchase of 145 M777 ultra-light howitzer & co-development cum coproduction of a Future version of Javelin ATGM are open and options are on offer while the current dispensation under PM Narendra Modi has already cleared the purchase of Israeli made Spike ATGM for Indian Army.Also, the joint statement in 30th September 2014 outlines to develop exchanges between India’s Indian National Defence University (INDU) and the U.S. National Defense University that will reflect knowledge partnership between the two universities in the field of defense studies.
But amid all sorts of development differences over three Contentious Agreements still prevails that the US wants India to Sign.
1. LSA- Logistics Supply Agreement– Modelled on the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreements the US has inked with scores of countries, the LSA envisages reciprocal logistical support on a barter or an equal-value exchange basis, entails both militaries to allow refueling & berthing facilities of warships & jets to each other.
2. CISMOA – Communication Interoperability & Security Memorandum Agreement. – Through the CISMOA, the US wants to enhance the ‘interoperability’ of Indian and American forces as well as ensure secrecy of its C4ISR (command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems. India wants a firm commitment by the US for access to latest space-based communication technology. This pact states that an Indian fighter plane or warship can communicate with the US plane or ship through shared communication systems through satellite.
3. BECA- Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation.BECA is likely to give US access to map sensitive terrain. While mapping through a satellite is not a concern, the armed forces have an apprehension that the proposed Agreement will also allow the US to use their own ground-based equipment to map sensitive areas of India.
The US has a similar agreement with more than 80 countries, including neighboring Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & also with Thailand to use their bases for refueling US warships and US Air Force planes.
Under the Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar’s regime during first gulf war in 1990, US transport planes had refueled at Mumbai. While Indian Navy & Airforce are quite comfortable with the agreements, it’s the political leadership that is averse to such agreement fearing any kind of alignment.