Washington, June 29: India and the US have broadened their military co-operation to include collaboration “in multinational operations when it is in their common interest”.
In principle, this allows India, for example, to join the US military invasion of Afghanistan, which could be deemed to be in New Delhi’s “interest” because the Taliban regime in Kabul was hosting and training terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir.
Also, in principle, India will not be bound to join, for instance, a US-led attack on Iraq because New Delhi has been opposed to it and does not consider such an attack to be in “common interest”.
This huge leap in defence co-operation between the Pentagon and India’s defence ministry is one of the provisions in a four-page document called “New framework for the US-India defence relationship”, signed yesterday between defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and US secretary for defence Donald Rumsfeld.
The new framework supersedes the “Agreed minutes on defence relations between the US and India”, of January 1995, which has so far been the foundation of military cooperation between the two nations.
In return for New Delhi’s willingness to participate in “multinational operations” with the US, Mukherjee scored a big hit for India when he got the Pentagon to agree that any “defence transactions” ' namely, arms sales ' will not solely be “ends in and of themselves”, but “means to strengthen our (two) countries’ security, reinforce our strategic partnership, achieve greater interaction between our armed forces, and build greater understanding between our defence establishments”.
The agreed framework emphasised that “our defence establishments shall... in the context of defence trade and a framework of technology security safeguards, increase opportunities for technology transfer, collaboration, co-production, and research and development”.
The Bush administration, whose strong ties with the military industrial complex are well known, has been pushing very hard in New Delhi to get India to buy American arms.
Rumsfeld and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice have spent a big part of their recent visits to Delhi single-mindedly pursuing this aim.
Within the Manmohan Singh cabinet, Mukherjee has been arguing that India should buy US arms only if the Americans agree to transfer weapons technology and sign agreements for co-production.
By taking this stand and not rushing into the arms of America’s weapons salesmen, he has won a commitment from the Pentagon to enhance India’s long-term defence security through transfer of technology and co-production clauses in weapons deals with Washington.
Mukherjee said very little was discussed about arms sales during his visit.