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Indo-US naval cooperation

  Mar 09, 2017

Indo-US naval cooperation

In the ever-expanding universe of Indo-US cooperation, perhaps the brightest and most alluring star is the deepening partnership between the Indian and US navies. Consider two recent pronouncements:
The latter comes in the wake of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), followed by the master ship repair agreement, between India and the US.
Both these developments underline a degree of mutual trust, confidence and growing cooperation on shore and at sea, which was previously unimaginable.

But is this cooperation likely to sustain?
The answer, according to a new report of the Centre for Naval Analyses (CNA), a Washington research organization, is a guarded “yes.” The report is upbeat about the state of cooperation. It notes the
However, it also identifies several strategic and operational factors that could limit or enhance this cooperation.
Among the strategic factors are:
While none of these directly relate to the navies, they are likely to affect the overall prospects and pace of Indo-US cooperation, including naval cooperation.
Even if the strategic factors are conducive for enhancing cooperation, there are several operational factors that could stymie deeper relations.
India is uncomfortable with joint Fonops for several reasons.
Finally, the CNA report is also concerned about the “capacity constraints” on the Indian Navy, particularly the limited budget afforded to it. In particular, it worries that Indian warships “are being decommissioned faster than they are being replaced.”
The report also accurately notes India’s westward focus both overland and by sea to the Gulf region and East Africa and how this is out of the area of responsibility of the primary driver of US-India naval cooperation—Pacom.
Against this backdrop, the report recommends a minimalist, business-as-usual, and maximalist approach to sustaining and building the cooperation.
Were the strategic and operations factors to improve dramatically, a maximalist scenario could be envisaged. This might include US-India naval exercises and, perhaps, anti-piracy operations, with both US Central Command (responsible for the Gulf region) and the US Africa Command, in addition to Pacom. Which of these scenarios will come to fruition is dependent on the Trump administration. And that remains a black hole that even this report cannot illuminate.