[Solved] What is the significance of Indo-US defence deals over Indo-Russian defence deals? Discuss with reference to stability in the Indo-Pacific region.(UPSC GS -2 Mains 2020)

India has been a notable defense trade partner of Russia for the past half a century. But over time our defense equipment has diversified to include countries such as the USA, France, and Israel. The US is speedily replacing Russia as the primary defense supplier to India. What is the significance of Indo-US defence deals over Indo-Russian defence deals? lets see

US-INDIA relations appreciate a bipartisan agreement, particularly on defense and security relations (DSR) which are the first drivers of their extensive worldwide vital organization. DSR is currently the crown gem of the organization with past predispositions and doubt lessening.

India-US Defence Deals’

  • Items on the agenda will be the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) a pact with deep military implications.
  • Till now, agreements known as LEMOA and COMCASA are signed.
  • Now, with BECA, these have been dubbed the troika of foundational pacts — essentially laying the foundation for deeper military cooperation.

What is BECA?

  • The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement largely pertain to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence.
  • Anyone who sails a ship, flies an aircraft, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cell phone relies on geospatial intelligence.
  • Signing BECA will allow India to use the US’s advanced geospatial intelligence and enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
  • It will give access to topographical and aeronautical data and products that will aid navigation and targeting.
  • BECA will provide Indian military systems with a high-quality GPS to navigate and missiles with real-time intelligence to precisely target the adversary.
  • This could be key for Air Force-to-Air Force cooperation.

The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)

  • The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement was signed between India and the US in 2016.
  • It allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases: access supplies, spare parts and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
  • This is extremely useful for Navy-to-Navy cooperation, since the US and India are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.

The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) 

  • The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement was signed in 2018.
  • It allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war.
  • COMCASA paved the way for transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India to facilitate “interoperability” between their forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.

Significance of Indo-US defence deals regarding Indo-Pacific

Blue water policy

US defence equipment will play a major role in India expanding its naval reach into the Indo-Pacific. The aircraft such as Poseidon will enhance our blue water naval capability to tackle extreme threats.

Check on China

US equipment is well advanced and unique from Russian technology. With China’s exposure to Russian defence equipment, US equipment is expected to give India a better advantage.

Free movement in South China sea

The equipment is expected to boost India’s offensive strength and challenge Chinese hegemony in South China Sea. It is particularly important if India wants to develop defence relationship with ASEAN countries such as Vietnam.

Protecting economic assets

The South China sea is a hub for piracy and terrorism, which puts India’s economic assets such as oil fields in Vietnam at risk. The advanced equipment such as unmanned drones will change the situation.

Protection of Indian Ocean Region

India is the net security provider in Indian Ocean Region that encompasses a large region. To better perform its duties, India is in dire need for modern sophisticated defence equipment.

Significance of Indo-US defence deals :Benefits for US

Revenue generation

India is one of the world’s biggest defence importer and at present Russia makes up 60% of the supplies. If US increases its business it is sure to produce economic benefits.

Countering China

A strong India will act as a counterbalance to China. With China increasing its global footprint, US is in urgent need of an able and strong ally such as India.

Strengthen diplomacy

Military diplomacy of US in India has low influence. This can be changed if defence deals with India boost over the course of time.

Indo-Pacific: A Strategic Opportunity for Russia?

  • Even as it rejects the Indo-Pacific, Russia’s growing stakes in the region tell a different tale.
  • This is reflected in its new partnerships with ASEAN, SAARC, African and Gulf countries, anchored in its weapons and natural resources diplomacy.
  • The jurisdiction of its Pacific Fleet extends from Vladivostok right up to the Persian Gulf, effectively highlighting Russia practising an Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • This nascent network of new relationships could help fulfil Russia’s long-cherished dream of gaining access to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
  • Interestingly, Russian maritime expeditions made frequent port calls in the region in the 19th century, marked by a full time consulate at Batavia, the capital of Dutch East Indies Company.
  • Russia’s vocal opposition of Indo-Pacific appears tactically linked to its necessity of an entente with China.
  • With Beijing’s support being critical to overcome Western pressure on its policies, the Kremlin as quid pro quo appears to increasingly back China in its core areas of strategic concern by doing the diplomatic heavy-lifting.

However, its advocacy seems to be tempered with a selective approach. For instance, instead of supporting Beijing on the issue of the South China Sea, Russia has called for preventing the dispute’s internationalisation.

  • Similarly, Russia has qualitatively stepped up its engagement with the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam — countries who have long-running territorial feuds and sovereignty claims with China.
  • Therefore, Russia appears to be performing the deft balancing act of not upsetting the Chinese applecart while continuing to pull at certain apples sensitive to China, creating a strategic space for manoeuvre.
  • The Indo-Pacific, on the other hand, can likely be one of Russia’s tools to stay relevant on the global stage.
  • Today, an increasingly bipolar US-China global narrative runs the risk of leaving Russia in its trail, given Moscow’s relative decline.
  • This necessitates Russia adopting independent positions in one of the world’s most dynamic regions to project the image of a pole in global affairs.
  • Being China’s junior partner undermines Kremlin’s great power ambitions. Russia, therefore, likely stands to gain from the multipolarity and multilateralism that the Indo-Pacific seeks to promote.
  • A strategic repositioning could not only help Russia overcome Western attempts to isolate it but also broaden the horizons of its pivot to Asia beyond China.

Significance of Indo-US defence deals :Exploring an India-Russia Congruence

  • A framework of India-Russia strategic cooperation in this space already exists, as outlined by Prime Minister Modi in the seminal ‘Act Far East’ policy launched in Vladivostok in 2019. 
  • Inevitably, the push and pull of Russia-US confrontation has complicated India’s foreign policy options.
  • Similar to Russia’s strategic necessity of an entente with China, a closer partnership with the US appears to be in India’s interests.However, it is likely that India will continue its independent course of action anchored in multi-alignment.
  • Russia remains India’s traditional partner and a pillar of India’s strategic autonomy. The challenge will likely be to convince Russia of India’s long-term independent Indo-Pacific vision.
  • It is, therefore, essential to continue to strive for congruence. What can possibly bridge the gap are both nations’ similar but as yet parallel visions of a stable security architecture and shared concerns over hegemonism.
  • India’s vision of Indo-Pacific appears to not only accommodate Russia’s clamour for ASEAN centrality and inclusion of East Africa but also complement the Greater Eurasia construct.
  • A Russia-India-Japan trilateral could be a new vector, given the fact that India and Japan’s Indo-Pacific visions seem to be the closest to Russia’s strategic comfort.

The litmus test of this traditional partnership will be to harmonise each other’s viewpoints, to the extent possible, and ride out the storm. Perhaps, a logistics sharing pact, long in the offing, could provide the much-needed momentum.

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