US Ships were berthed at Chennai but pact to make logistics easier has not been operationalised yet
It has nearly been a year since India and the United States signed a landmark agreement to share military logistics that gives access to each other’s facilities for supply and repair of defence assets. However, even at the biggest military drill between the two nations, in the Bay of Bengal, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) has not been operationalised.
Designed specifically to ensure that large scale military efforts like the Malabar exercise are carried out smoothly by merely signing off on fuel and supplies received, in exchange for similar courtesies to Indian ships later, the LEMOA was to start functioning last year itself after the signing in August.
However, a lack of clarity on the authority chain to be followed and the points of contact to be approached on the Indian side is believed to have held back the actual operationsalisation of the pact. Sources said that while several US warships and aircraft came to Chennai as part of the exercise, they could not make use of the LEMOA pact.
As per the agreement, visiting ships and planes do not need to make cash payments for fuel and services. These are simply accounted for by either side and at the end of the year, the balance is paid by the necessary party.
India and the US signed the LEMOA after a 10-year debate in New Delhi, where dissenting voices saw it as a military pact that goes beyond sharing logistics. India has, however, made it clear that the pact does not make logistics support mandatory on either side and each request made under the LEMOA is decided on its own merit.
The American side has repeatedly asked for speedy implementation of the LEMOA, with the first such request coming for joint military training exercise, ‘Yudh Abhyas’, in September 2016. The training exercise in Chaubattia, Uttarakhand, simulated a Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorism environment in mountainous terrain under a UN charter.
The LEMOA is one of the foundation agreements that the US signs with its partners, others being the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) and the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) that India has refused to sign on as of now.