India Signs LEMOA, Signaling a Move Toward China

9/1/16 | Jacob Straub | Regular Correspondent

On the Surface

During Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar’s late August visit to the United States, he will sign the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). This agreement is an important step in allowing India to access supplies, spare parts and services from other nation’s military facilities. This deal will increase India’s role as a logistical ally in combating superpowers, specifically China, who are attempting to gain control of the South China Sea.

How does this benefit the United States?

In order to contest China’s bold advances into the South China Sea, the US plans on moving forces into the area. In coming months, The U.S. Navy plans to deploy 60 percent of its surface ships in the Indo-Pacific. Rather than investing in the lengthy process of base and port construction, LEMOA will allow for US to use Indian facilities.

Why did India sign the agreement?

In recent years, India and China—at least diplomatically—have been on shaky ground due to border disputes. So for India, China’s seizure of the South China Sea was a tipping point. As Prime Minister Modi put it, “[LEMOA] is a one further step…[to] move India away from its Cold War alliance with Russia, toward a new alliance with the US.” For India, this kind of alliance could be beneficial. Had US troops been stationed at Indian bases early last June, they could’ve helped respond to ISIS’s attack on Bangladesh.

Another possible reason for the agreement was India’s aspiration to bolster its role in international affairs. New Delhi is angling to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and LEMOA will certainly help in that effort.

India’s signing off on LEMOA could lead to the peaceful retreat of China from the South China Sea, or could exacerbate the problems already present. The results have yet to be seen.


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