Indo-U.S. Relations in the Twenty-First Century
Recognising this, the U.S. initiated a policy of rapprochement with India as early as in 1999, leading up to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, military-to-military cooperation and the on-going strategic dialogue to define the relationship commonly bandied about as an Indo-U.S. strategic alliance.
The U.S., a major stakeholder in NATO, has been pressing India to join three defence pacts that would put it firmly into a strategic military alliance like any of its other NATO partners. These include “Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA),” which are U.S. “arrangements for enhancing defence ties with other countries.”18 The domestic and international implications are far reaching.
Indias relationship with NATO is only a part of the larger security matrix that envelopes its security interests and not an end in itself.
BECA comprises an exchange between the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense and its counterpart and client departments in India. It requires both parties to provide “Geospatial Information of any type or format resulting from the information collection, transformation, generation, portrayal, dissemination, or storing of geodetic, geophysical, geomagnetic, aeronautical, topographic, hydrographic, commercial and other unclassified imagery, cartographic, cultural, bathymetric, and toponyrnic data or other types of geospatial information. Geospatial information also includes information resulting from the evaluation of topographic, hydrographic, or aeronautical features for their effect on military operations or intelligence. Geospatial information may include, but is not limited to, presentation in the following forms: topographic, planimetric, relief, or thematic maps or graphics; nautical and aeronautical charts and publications; and commercial and other unclassified imagery, as well as simulated, photographic, digital, or computerized formats”.19 This extremely intrusive interaction would require South Block to make some sensitive compromises entailing its intelligence agencies and the military. In all probability, it would require the Constitution to be amended.
CISMOA is an agreement that lays down protocols for interoperability and ensuring the security of communications between the armed forces of the two countries. It enables each country’s armed forces to carry out joint operations via agreed and secure communications protocols. It is a requirement before the U.S. can transfer sophisticated communications technology to India.20 CISMOA is the concern of the U.S. Pacific commander in chief, who has to certify that equipment that will be used for information gathering and dissemination can also be used “interoperable” by U.S. forces. The Indian military would rightly resist this pact, which permits intrusive control of the entire range of its C4ISR equipment, i.e., command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms—even more so with the United States’ close ties to its major non-NATO ally (MNNA), Pakistan. Inherent in such an arrangement would be a loss of autonomy in executing military operations to defend national security interests in an environment wherein the partners’ interests are at variance.
Though in some respects their agenda converges with Indias scheme of things, it is also aimed at issues that would generate imbalances detrimental to Indias specific security interests.
LSA requires both countries to provide their bases, fuel and other kinds of logistics support to each other’s fighter jets and naval warships. Logistical support with regard to weapons facilities would involve nonoffensive military equipment. This support will involve cashless transactions on a reciprocal basis. It is similar to the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which the U.S. has with many of its NATO allies.21 However, under the prevailing environment, there is little likelihood that India would require extensive use of such facilities in North America. On the other hand, the U.S., which is involved in a number of military operations in South Asia and its neighbourhood, would be using these bases to transit forces to and from the war zone and for R&R purposes. Furthermore, India’s laws do not allow for free movement without necessary legal papers. Finally, political sensitivities could pose hurdles that the government may not be able to negotiate.
NATO’S Call for Engagement with India
India’s relationship with NATO is only a part of the larger security matrix that envelopes its security interests and not an end in itself. Over the last six decades, Delhi learned to balance national interests and threats in keeping with its comparatively inadequate power coefficient to ensure an appropriate environment for growth. This was possible only because Jawaharlal Nehru, the first post-independence prime minister, having recognised India’s fragility, was able to relate with the then prevailing global milieu in accordance with the ancient Hindu philosophy as advocated by Kautilya:
“Whoever is inferior to another shall make peace with him; whoever is superior in power shall wage war; whoever thinks ‘no enemy can hurt me, nor am I strong enough to destroy my enemy,’ shall observe neutrality; whoever is possessed of necessary means shall march against his enemy; whoever is devoid of necessary strength to defend himself shall seek the protection of another; whoever thinks that help is necessary to work out an end shall make peace with one and wage war with another. Such is the aspect of the six forms of policy.”22
He elected to follow the path of neutrality under the banner of the non-aligned movement. This philosophy served India well, allowing the best possible environment for multifaceted growth of a fledgling democracy in a highly developed industrial environment. Over five decades, India underwent the trauma induced by its delayed agricultural and industrial revolutions and was at par with the more advanced states in the management of the more sophisticated electronic revolution currently underway. It has developed a significant political, economic, military and technological power base and has emerged on the world scene as a meaningful player. Consequently, it is sought by many to facilitate their interests and yet others who are threatened by its exponential increment in power potential. The two have to be balanced carefully keeping in mind that India’s regional security concerns were of marginal concern to the U.S. and its NATO allies. Though in some respects their agenda converges with India’s scheme of things, it is also aimed at issues that would generate imbalances detrimental to India’s specific security interests.