Asia's Game of Thrones
India and U.S. Prepare to Share Military Logistics

One of the U.S. big Asia goals lately has been to get India to cooperate on defense. It’s been a challenge, but last week, Washington had some success. Reuters:

India and the United States have agreed in principle to share military logistics, the countries’ defense ministers said on Tuesday, as both sides seek to counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.

Washington has for years urged New Delhi to sign a Logistics Support Agreement that allows the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest.

India has had concerns that a logistics agreement would commit it to hosting U.S. troops at its bases, or draw it into a military alliance with the United States and undermine its traditional autonomy.

But after years of delays, the two sides said an agreement was in hand, although not yet ready for signing.

“We have agreed in principle that all the issues are resolved,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar.

The two sides would finalize the text of an agreement in coming weeks, Carter said.

If the deal gets finalized, it won’t make China happy. India has traditionally played a sort of regional balancer, throwing its weight in different directions at different times. This strategy has had benefits for India, but there have been signs that New Delhi might be preparing to pick sides.

Earlier this year, reports suggested the United States and India might conduct joint patrols, but India officials quickly squashed the rumor (although it wasn’t clear they outright denied anything). India has adhered to a strict policy of military unilateralism for decades. But amidst renewed fears that China is constructing a “string of pearls” with islands in the Indian Ocean and Beijing’s South China Sea aggression, could New Delhi be looking to make new alliances with China’s other rivals? Reportedly, Modi and Japan’s Shinzo Abe get along very well.

Another factor: This week, Pakistan’s army chief accused India of trying to sabotage China’s large investments in the port city of Gwadar. As Beijing’s relationship with Pakistan’s military grows stronger, India will get even more uneasy.

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