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International Relations

USA Aircraft Refuelling at A&N Islands

  • 07 Oct 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, a USA Navy P-8A long range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) landed at Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands for refuelling under the bilateral logistics support agreement.

  • This is the first time the USA got access to A&N under the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).

Key Points

  • LEMOA:
    • It allows both countries to have access to each other’s designated military facilities for refueling and replenishment.
    • Signed by India in 2016.
  • Other foundational military communication agreements with the USA:
    • General Security of Military Information Agreement:
      • GSOMIA allows militaries to share the intelligence gathered by them.
      • Signed by India in 2002.
      • An extension to the GSOMIA, the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), was signed at the 2+2 dialogue in 2019.
      • ISA provides a framework for exchange and protection of classified military information between the USA and Indian defence industries.
    • Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement:
      • Valid for 10 years, COMCASA aims to provide a legal framework for the transfer of highly sensitive communication security equipment from the USA to India that will streamline and facilitate interoperability between their armed forces.
      • Signed by India in 2018.
  • BECA: The USA is looking forward to India signing the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA), at the next India-USA 2+2 ministerial dialogue likely to be held in October, 2020.
    • BECA will allow India to use the geospatial maps of the USA to get pinpoint military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons such as cruise and ballistic missiles.
  • Strategic Significance of A&N Islands:
    • It is close to the Strait of Malacca and global sea lanes of communication.
    • A&NI has become an important element of India’s “Act East Policy” of engaging with countries in the region east of India.
    • The Andaman and Nicobar chain of islands could be used as a basis for Indian maritime power projection into the Indo-Pacific and even beyond into the south-west Pacific.
    • The A&NI could be used for India’s Third Fleet (other two are the Western and Eastern Fleets) and the trans-shipment hub at Car Nicobar, could potentially be a strategic game-changer, rivalling the ports of Singapore or Colombo.
    • Changing nature of warfare has led to the expansion of scope of a Tri-Command Service.
      • As Andaman and Nicobar is the first Tri-Command structure in India, development of military infrastructure at A&NI is a key requirement in India’s security strategy.
  • Increased Maritime Interactions with Quad Countries:
    • Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is the informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.
    • There has been a sharp increase in India’s maritime interactions with the Quad countries on a bilateral basis centred around information sharing for improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in the Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific.
      • MDA is defined by the International Maritime Organization as the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment of a country.
    • India has logistics agreements with all three Quad countries — Australia, Japan and the USA. India has also signed maritime information sharing agreements with Australia and Japan and a similar agreement is in the works with the USA .

Way Forward

  • The increase in India’s maritime interactions with the Quad countries will strengthen India’s position in the Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific.
  • Strategic balancing is the key to move forward in relationships with powerful countries like the USA.
  • India and the USA must now strive to complete the unfinished agreements and set the course for a Comprehensive Strategic Global Partnership.

Source: TH

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