From tackling terror to NSG inclusion, Modi-Obama make headway on range of issues - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 8 June 2016

From tackling terror to NSG inclusion, Modi-Obama make headway on range of issues

By Ajai Shukla
Philadelphia, US
Business Standard, 8th May 2016

India and US to be “priority partners” in the Asia-Pacific
Text finalised of logistics agreement (LEMOA)
Additional defence agreements like CISMOA possible
High technology sharing with “major defence partner” India
Additional projects to be taken up under DTTI
US cooperation for designing indigenous aircraft carrier
India to assist in repatriating WWII US pilots’ remains
Counter terrorism: arrangement for sharing information
US support for India’s entry into global non-proliferation agreements, most immediately Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
US finance for six nuclear power projects; contracts by 2017

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discussion on Tuesday with US President Barack Obama in Washington, a joint statement described what it billed as their “third major bilateral summit”, after earlier meetings in September 2014 and January 2015.

The statement noted a new military logistics agreement, made common cause in the South China Sea, revealed growing American involvement in helping India build an indigenous aircraft carrier, and announced additional co-development projects for defence equipment. There is a new agreement for sharing terrorist-related information. India will be buying six 1000MW nuclear power plants from Toshiba-Westinghouse, with the contract to be signed in 2017. And Washington has thrown its full weight behind India’s candidature for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Asia-Pacific cooperation

US officials privately lament New Delhi’s poor follow-up of strategic agreements. This joint statement pins India down to specific action, announcing “a roadmap for cooperation under the 2015 U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, which will serve as a guide for collaboration in the years to come.”

In a subtly-worded statement that takes the US-India partnership beyond the 2014 Vision Statement and 2015 Declaration of Friendship, Modi and Obama “resolved that the United States and India should look to each other as priority partners in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region.”

The leaders also welcomed last month’s inaugural meeting of the US-India Maritime Security Dialogue, which was instituted in April during US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s visit to New Delhi.

In an indicator last week that New Delhi was shifting closer to Washington in its confrontation with China in the South China Sea, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, had hardened his tone against China’s unilateralism and bellicosity.

The long expected announcement about a US-India logistic agreement duly came, with the statement noting “the finalization of the text of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).” The actual signing will take place shortly at a lower official level.

Washington will be delighted with an indication that New Delhi is open to other agreements, such as the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement, which it has so far resisted. The statement noted that Modi and Obama “expressed their desire to explore agreements which would facilitate further expansion of bilateral defense cooperation in practical ways.”

Defence technology

Washington has promised to ease the transfer of defence technology to India, a pledge it has made earlier in less explicit terms. The joint statement says: “United States hereby recognizes India as a Major Defense Partner… The United States will continue to work toward facilitating technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.”

Without mentioning specifics, Modi and Obama said they had “reached an understanding under which India would receive license-free access to a wide range of dual-use technologies, in conjunction with steps that India has committed to take to advance its export control objectives.”

The statement also welcomes “the establishment of new DTTI [Defence Technology and Trade Initiative] working groups to include agreed items covering Naval Systems, Air Systems and other Weapons Systems.” During Obama’s 2015 visit to India, four “pathfinder projects” were announced for co-developing systems, but these have made little headway. It remains unclear what the new projects are, or how they will be structured.

There are clear indications that the Indian Navy has approached Washington for assistance in building its second indigenous aircraft carrier. The joint statement “announced the finalization of the text of an Information Exchange Annex under the Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Cooperation.”

In another announcement that will be welcomed in America, Modi told Obama he would support the location and repatriation of bodies of World War II US pilots who crashed in the Eastern Himalayas while flying supplies from Assam for Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang forces fighting the Japanese in China. During Carter’s visit to Delhi in April, one pilot’s remains were despatched to the US.


Taking the already close counter-terrorism cooperation forward, Modi and Obama “applauded the finalisation of “an arrangement to facilitate the sharing of terrorist screening information.”

The joint statement also called for Pakistan to prosecute those behind the 2008 Mumbai and 2016 Pathankot terrorist attacks.

India’s acceptance into NSG, MTCR

Highlighting Washington’s strong support for India’s entry into the four global non-proliferation agreements, the joint statement looked forward to “India’s imminent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime.” Further, the US “re-affirmed its support for India’s early membership of the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement.”

The statement said: “President Obama welcomed India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and re-affirmed that India is ready for membership. The United States called on NSG Participating Governments to support India’s application when it comes up at the NSG Plenary later this month.”

Modi is making a last-ditch attempt on his on-going five-country tour to marshal support for India’s membership of the NSG from two reluctant members: Mexico and Switzerland. At the end of his visit to Berne, Switzerland announced its support. If Mexico too drops its resistance when Modi visits on Thursday, Obama would urge China to not be the lone objector.

On UN reform the statement affirmed support “for a reformed UN Security Council with India as a permanent member… The leaders are committed to continued engagement on Security Council reform in the UN Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN on Security Council Reform.”

Nuclear power generation

Billed as a clean energy project that would fulfil “the promise of the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement”, Modi and Obama “welcomed the start of preparatory work on site in India for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by Westinghouse and noted the intention of India and the U.S. Export-Import Bank to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project.”

The statement referred to “the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalizing the contractual arrangements by June 2017.”

Stating that the US “supports the Government of India’s ambitious national goals to install 175 GW of renewable power which includes 100 GW from solar power,” the joint statement said the two countries would jointly launch an initiative for off-grid solar energy at the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance in India in September.


  1. On membership of NSG, I myself fail to see why a country not a member of NPT should be allowed to get in there? To say that Indians are good people and hence must be trusted can hardly be a plank to break existing rules. Is that the way to run global affairs? And don't read too much in to America backing us. As long as they know that China will block it anyways, it makes good sense to get some Indian goodwill at no cost.

  2. Wonder how and why should the world should make a country specific exemption for India to join NSG, without NPT? Are we certified angels? As for American approval, it is smart of them to gain leverage with India by showing public approval, while knowing well that China would never let that happen. Smart move.

  3. @Alok

    There are separate rules for the weak and separate rules for the strong. It is extremely gullible on your part to think that rules apply to all uniformly.

  4. 1>NSG is a group where people decide not to sell stuff except among themselves.

    2>BARC has a lot that it can sell if it remains outside NPT.

    3>NSG without NPT signature is as good as NPT signature.

    4>Just remember who enabled this.

    5>China will be more than happy to let us into NSG even without Pakistan.

    6>Pakistan has nothing worthwhile to sell and Chinese know that.

    7>Though everybody in NSG would like to have Pakis inside the tent pissing outside. Because Pakis can still supply 'rogue states that are a danger to world peace and democracy'.

    8>GoI just have to say Khushamadeed sheikh chini and it will happen. Something the MoEA has been practicing for last 70 years.

    Nearly all of this is just a drama to make it look like India needs NSG membership badly and the world did us a favour.

  5. As fas as membership in the NSG is concerned, India needs only the Uranium for its nuclear power plants. As a quid-pro-quo obligation, its agreed to buy 6 Toshiba-Westinghouse reactors also.

    However, in the medium-term, India must only rely on its indigenous PHWR reactors developed by Department of Atomic Energy (DaE) of 740 MW capacity each. After these are commissioned, these shall also be develoepd to 1,000 MW+ capacity, and India won't have to import foreign reactors.

    Its once again a crying shame, that like the Armed Forces, India seeks to import nuclear reactors despite having one of the most robust nuclear programmes in the world; one that was developed under isolation of technology denials, sanctions and being a pariah.

    I'm hoping that the Toshiba-Westinghouse deal is just quid-pro-quo only, and that India shall only commission indigenously built reactors in the future.


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