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Tuesday, August 30, 2016, 17:28

US, India sign military logistics agreement

By Reuters

US, India sign military logistics agreement
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (left) and India's Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar attend a press conference at the Pentagon on Aug 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

WASHINGTON - The United States and India signed an agreement on Monday governing the use of each other's land, air and naval bases for repair and resupply, a step toward building defense ties.

The agreement, a relatively mundane one concerning day-to-day military logistics, is nonetheless a milestone in the US-India defense relationship because of the outsized political importance it had taken on in India, where it had touched on domestic sensitivities, experts said.

The signing of the agreement will "make the logistics of joint operations so much easier and so much more efficient," US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a news briefing with Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

The agreement will allow the Indian and US navies to have an easier time supporting each other in joint operations and exercises and when providing humanitarian assistance, Parrikar said.

Washington's desire for deeper security cooperation with India had been complicated without the signing of the logistics agreement as well as two other pacts that would allow for secure communications and the exchange of nautical and other data. The agreements are considered routine between the United States and its other defense partners.

But India has had concerns such an agreement would commit it to hosting US troops at its bases, or draw it into a military alliance with the United States and undermine its traditional autonomy. Carter and Parrikar reached an agreement "in principle" in April, but had yet to finalize the details.

Carter has made closer military ties with India a priority, and established a special unit within the Pentagon last year to promote cooperation with that country. Parrikar's visit to Washington this week marks the sixth interaction between the two top defense officials.

Both Carter and Parrikar went to pains on Monday to make clear that the logistics agreement did not allow for basing of US troops in India.

"It's not a basing agreement of any kind," Carter said.

The US military has made clear it wants to do more with India.

"India and the United States have a shared interest in freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce as part of rule-based order in (the) Indo-Pacific," Parrikar said.

China hoped cooperation between India and the United States would be "constructive and positive" for the region's peace and stability and development, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing on Tuesday.

"So, we look favorably on this sort of normal relationship between India and the United States," Hua said.

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