Three bilateral defense agreements will be high on the agenda during Carter’s visit: the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), and—perhaps the most consequential of the three—the Logistics Supply Agreement (LSA).
Each of these agreements expands U.S.-India defense cooperation in a fairly modest manner, without necessitating a revolution in either side’s approach to the partnership. India’s approach to the United States remains limited in important ways, despite the fact that New Delhi increasingly purchases more arms than ever from U.S. suppliers and conducts more military exercises with the U.S. military than any other country’s armed forces. Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected in 2014, India and the United States have made some important forays on defense cooperation. (For more on this, see my takeaways from Modi’s September 2014 visit to the United States and Obama’s January 2015 visit to India.)
Truth be told, LSA, CISMOA, and BECA aren’t particularly exciting agreements. Certainly, none of them represent anything revolutionary. Instead, they are the foundational building blocks for a deeper U.S.-India defense partnership. The LSA—the most talked about of the three agreements—would set a framework for the two countries to share military logistics. Under the reciprocal agreement, both New Delhi and Washington would have the ability, but not the obligation, to assist each other’s armed forces with simple military logistics. For the U.S. Navy, for example, logistics support from India would be a valuable asset, helping it better project power in the Indian Ocean.