LSA, CISMOA and BECA Agreements

In earlier modules we have discussed that DTTI (Defence Trade and Technology Initiative) is one of the main vehicles for bilateral security ties between United States and India. DTTI is neither a treaty nor law. Its objective is to strengthen India-US cooperative research, co-production, and co-development of capabilities. As of February 2016, India and US have agreed on four pathfinder projects under DTTI.

However, to take the strategic / defense ties to next level, US is pushing India to sign three agreements viz. CISMOA, LSA and BECA. These agreements are so called “Foundational Agreements” which are separate than DTTI. India has so far skipped signing these three contentious agreements. The UPA government had out rightly refused to sign due to coalition pressures but the current Government has shown some interest to sign them. It was reported in media that India has asked US to send revised drafts of these agreements after addressing India’s concerns over these agreements.

We look into some issues related to them here and try to define if India should sign or not these agreements.

What is CISMOA?

CISMOA stands for Communication and Information Security Memorandum Agreement. This agreement would allow the interoperability of India and United States equipments. By interoperability, we mean that there would be access to encrypted and secret technologies or communications. We note here that so far United States has blocked sale of some of the advanced technologies and sensitive equipments to India on account of non-signing this agreement. Signing this agreement would help because such advanced technologies and sensitive equipments are generally installed on US procured systems only. This agreement could also be important for multinational operations related to rescue, disaster relief etc.

What is LSA?

LSA refers to Logistics Support Agreement. This agreement would enable mutual exchange of logistics support, supplies and services (LSSS) between the defense forces of both countries. Here we note that United States has signed a so called Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with NATO countries. Such agreements have also been signed with Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in our neighbourhood.

What is BECA?

BECA refers to Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation. This agreement would facilitate exchange of geospatial information between India and United States for both military and civilian use.

Advantages for India

United States calls these agreements as “foundational” in terms of cooperation of defense or sensitive technologies. US argues that these would enable technology transfer, logistics and seamless communication between military systems of the two countries. Further, the LSA would also help India to deal with 21st century challenges more efficiently by correcting the deficiencies in logistics. It would help them to share their experience and strengthen their operational capabilities in joint military exercises, training, and defence equipment sales. It’s worth note here that India has gained from the US experience in handling cyber terrorism, conducting rescue and relief operations during natural disasters, dealing with improvised explosive devices etc. The US has also benefitted from the Indian experience of fighting on various terrains, dealing with ethnic conflicts, international peacekeeping etc. Further, these agreements also have economic benefits. They would enable cashless supplies to each other’s armed forces on credit.

Contentious Issues

As mentioned above, UPA had rejected signing of these agreements because of coalition pressures. The left contended that these agreements would make India to oblige to the US agenda. They contended that United States is a selfish country and these agreements could give it unfettered access to the Indian military bases; which is dangerous in case of interest conflict in future.

Secondly,  signing of the agreements is viewed as a pretext to create military alliances in Asia and put pressure on India to buy expensive weaponry from the US. It is seen as against India’s military neutrality and conveys a more provocative message to China. The Indian Navy and armed forces also not want to tied down to only one US system. Thirdly, Russia, which is India’s oldest ally in defence technology transfer, has repeatedly raised the issue of India tilting towards the US, especially with the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). Fourth issue is – what happens in case of a war?  India does not support some actions of US and it will not support war of US with its friendly countries. There is a need to clarify how to deal with this. Lastly, CISMOA and BECA would give the US access to India’s encrypted systems. Indian armed forces have also expressed their reservations on this.

What should India do?

The LSA agreement that the US has signed with other countries are mutually beneficial. Such agreements between the US and its NATO partners did not compelled them to contribute in US invasion on Iraq in 2003. Signing of such agreements by Sri Lanka has not spoiled its relationship with China, which is a major investor in infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. Whatever the objectionable elements, both sides should negotiate with each other and ensure that the agreements are in consistent with their national interests and policies. As mentioned earlier, the agreements benefit both countries on defence and strategic aspects. India’s growing role in the world and rise of the non-traditional challenges increases the importance of such agreements for timely access to all the needed LSSS.

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