After years of bilateral talks and confidence building measures, India and the U.S. signed LEMOA, the first of the three foundational agreements, last August. However, it has not yet been operationalised as India is moving ahead very cautiously. It is streamlining its administrative procedures to avoid any misinterpretation at any level by either side, as India has signed the agreement as an equal partner and not as a lackey. That process is now almost complete and the Defence Ministry is expected to issue the notification from its end in the next few days.
At the time of signing LEMOA, India had stated that that it was open to similar agreements with other countries as well, depending on the necessity and the advantage that they would bring to India. Now Australia has put forward a proposal to have a logistics support agreement with India on the lines of the one concluded with the US. In fact the draft agreement had been submitted by Australia quite some time back. However India has still not taken any action on it. Probably India is waiting to first get the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. fully operational and see how it works, prior to fresh agreements with others.
India and Australia have been expanding their military-to-military cooperation, especially in the maritime domain, given their shared interests and concerns in the Indian Ocean, with the rapid expansion of China’s naval presence in the region. However, India has informally conveyed that it would like to first operationalise the LEMOA with the U.S. and would like to take up other such agreements after that. “Let us first implement what we have signed, we can then access its merits and consider other agreements based on the necessity,” one official said.
The proposal comes in the backdrop of Australia’s recent request for observer status during this year’s Malabar trilateral naval exercises scheduled to be held in July. However most probably due to the available time frame this has not been accepted for at least this year. Other reasons if any are not known.