India and UK are in the final stages of signing a defence logistics sharing pact, according to people aware of the development. This logistic pact will enable reciprocal uses of bases and airfields for fuel, supplies and spares.
This pact has been under discussion for quite a time, besides an agreement on joint training.
This agreement can greatly expand the reach of Indian warships and aircraft in the Indo-pacific region. “India’s military logistics pacts have the potential to substantially enhance the Indian Navy’s operational reach in the Indo-pacific region. From Reunion to Djibouti and Salalah to Guam, India now has access to the remote reaches of the Indo Pacific. A logistics agreement with the UK will for the first time offer India access to naval facilities in the distant Atlantic,” says Abhijit Singh, head of the maritime policy initiative at the Observer Research Foundation.
This agreement will add to the series of similar agreements with players in the Indo-pacific. India is currently having logistics sharing pacts with the US, France, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, and Japan.
The Indian Navy currently has access to the following bases:
- Busan of South Korea
- Okinawa / Iwo Jima of Japan
- Cocoa Keeling of Australia
- Reunion islands of France
- Guam of USA
Also, this pact will give the Navy additional access to the British bases in Djibouti and Bahrain.
India has always been very careful in using these pacts. Only occasional refueling at sea and naval bases have taken place with the US, Indian planes have used the Reunion islands as a turnaround base and Singapore has acted as a hub.
It is even in news that India is going to ink a pact with Russia soon – possibly at the next bilateral meeting scheduled for this month.
Benefits for India:
Darshana Barua, a Non-Resident Scholar, Carnegie Endowment, says about the pact, “The agreement with the UK in a way provides a foundational access map for India across Indo-pacific. Depending on political will, through these logistics pacts India would not only have access to the entry and exit points in the Indian Ocean but reach and presence at strategic locations in the Indo-pacific.”
For the first time, New Delhi will get access to naval facilities in the Atlantic region. Also, the pact will help India counter Chinese influence in the region. The Indo-pacific has been the epicenter of “great power competition” with China.
China already has access to ports of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Gwadar in Pakistan, Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and is on its way to increase its approach. Beijing has increased its naval presence in the Indian Ocean by its so-called theory of “String of Pearls”, and therefore these pacts hold significant importance for India. In the coming years, these pacts are expected to leverage India’s naval potential, so as to combat China’s increasing ambitions in the region.