NEW DELHI: India is working to enhance its strategic reach in the Indian Ocean and beyond by clinching reciprocal military logistics pacts with friendly countries to counter China’s expanding footprint across the Indo-Pacific region.
Japan has now become the sixth country, after the US, France, Australia, South Korea and Singapore, with which India has such an agreement to enable military forces to share logistics to support each other’s warships and aircraft as well as bolster overall interoperability and defence cooperation.
“India is negotiating similar pacts with the UK and Russia. The Russian one should be inked later this year. We don’t have the intention or the wherewithal to establish overseas bases like China is doing far and wide,” a senior official said on Thursday.
Defence secretary Ajay Kumar and Japanese ambassador Suzuki Satoshi signed the agreement on “reciprocal provision of supplies and services” between the Indian armed forces and the Japanese self-defence forces.
PM Narendra Modi and his counterpart Shinzo Abe agreed that the pact, the negotiations for which had kicked off in October 2018, will “further enhance the depth of defence cooperation” between India and Japan and “contribute to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region”.
The 10-year agreement will be automatically extended every decade unless once side decides to terminate it.
The defence ministry, in turn, said the agreement establishes the enabling framework for closer cooperation between the two armed forces in reciprocal provision of supplies and services while engaged in bilateral training activities, UN peacekeeping operations, humanitarian international relief and other mutually agreed activities.
With an eye on an expansionist and rule-flouting China, the ‘Quad’ grouping of India, the US, Australia and Japan is also set to gain more heft now. Just last week, chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat strongly backed the Quad as a “good mechanism” to ensure freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. India, incidentally, is also getting set to host a meeting of the Quad later this year.
As for the logistics pacts, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) inked with the US in 2016 gives India refuelling facilities and access to American bases in Djibouti, Diego Garcia, Guam and Subic Bay.
The one inked with France in 2018 extends the Indian Navy’s reach in south-western IOR due to French bases in the Reunion Islands near Madagascar and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
The mutual logistics support arrangement (MLSA) inked with Australia in June will help Indian warships in southern Indian Ocean and the western Pacific region.
China, which now has the world’s largest Navy with 350 warships and submarines, is looking to set up more logistics bases after its first overseas military facility in Djibouti became operational in August 2017. It also has access to Karachi and Gwadar ports in Pakistan for turnaround facilities for its submarines and warships.
The latest US Pentagon report says China is actively looking to set up military logistics facilities in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, UAE, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola and Tajikistan, as reported by TOI.