India and US to bargain hard on defence agreements

New Delhi: India and the US are set to bargain hard on three controversial defence foundational agreements and “pre-bid guarantee” on transfer of technology, in case an American firm bids for ‘Make in India’ fighter jet programme, during the visit of Defence Secretary Ashton Carter here next week.

The US has been pushing India to sign three agreements – Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) – the previous UPA government had resisted.

However, under the new dispensation, things have changed and India is open to a tweaked LSA which facilitates the provision of logistical support, supplies, and services between the US military and the armed forces of partner countries on a reimbursable basis, and provides a framework that governs the exchange of logistics support, supplies, and services.

Defence sources said that “progress” has been made with regard to LSA but added that it does not mean that it is a done deal. Even as India holds its cards close to chest, New Delhi has asked the US to make it clear if the American government will stand guarantee for transfer of technology (TOT) if US-based companies were to bid under ‘Make in India’ fighter jet programme.

“The Americans will have to give pre-bid guarantee if their firm wants to take part in Make in India programme for fighter aircraft. Companies promise moon but at the end we should not be left with sand in our hands,” defence sources said. The issues came up for discussion between the defence policy group of the two countries this week ahead of Carter’s visit in India starting April 10.