A much-debated India-US logistics agreement will be of immense benefit as it will give India access to US military bases worldwide and does not involve any “war exchanges”, while any support for operational purposes will only be on a case-by-case basis, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said.
Also, empowering the Indian Army to give befitting reply to cross-border firing and infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir has brought down the number of incidents while the number of infiltrators killed has gone up, Parrikar told IANS in an interview.
He clarified that it will not involve any “war exchange”.
“It does not involve any war exchanges, or manpower coming on our bases. This is only refueling, re-watering and food supplies,” he said, adding that it in return gives India access to US bases across the globe.
The logistics agreement, “in principal” approval to which was given by both sides during US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent India visit, is centered only on fuel, water and food support, Parrikar said.
The minister also said that the agreement is not what was agreed upon during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s tenure, which, he said developed “cold feet” on the pact.
“They (UPA government) agreed on everything but it did not go to the cabinet. They developed cold feet. But we are not moving forward with their agreement. We are drafting a new agreement, drafts for which are being exchanged,” Parrikar said.
“Our agreement is for any international humanitarian assistance or normal exercises. We can take the benefit from each other’s facilities. It does not involve any operational use, for that approval will be needed on case-to-case basis,” the minister said.
“We will get the same facilities on all their bases across the globe… Suppose they have a base in Bahrain, my ships going to that area need not take a tanker with them. It can replenish itself in Bahrain. I will also benefit. Ten years back, Indian ships were not travelling that much. Now, you see four-five of our ships in some port or the other. This is actually increasing the experience of our sailors. We now require many facilities in many places, we will also avail those,” the minister said.
He added that the facilities will not free, and payments will be made.A
With the government completing two years in office, Parrikar, who has repeatedly said that the Indian Army has been asked to give a “befitting reply” to cross-border firing at the Line of Control, said that the effect of giving soldiers the freedom to act is visible.
“At this moment the figure (of cross-border firing) has dropped much below the average. It happened in the beginning… I am not denying the fact. It had gone up from October 2014 upto February 2015. But when we started giving a proper response, this has come down to a large extent,” the minister said.
Asked what was his exact message to the Army, Parrikar said: “You do not do anything but if anyone tries to do something, do not spare them.”
The minister also highlighted that the kill ratio of terrorists trying to infiltrate in India has gone up, and Indian troop casualties have come down.
“I don’t think there is rise in infiltration, might be marginal. But the kill ratio is now 9:44. We have lost nine security personnel in that grid and killed 44 terrorists. Whereas during UPA’s tenure it was 67:98, so it was almost 1:1.3,” he said.
Asked about the shortage of fighter squadrons with Indian Air Force (IAF) the minister said this being taken care of, adding that in a world of changing warfare, the fighting capabilities of aircraft can be supplemented through missile systems.
India currently has 34 fighter squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 42.
“One may want even 10,000, there is a difference in equipping adequately and equipping lavishly,” the minister said.
Detailing plans for maintaining the fighter strength, Parrikar said that the Tejas LCA will replace the ageing MiG-21s and in two to three years and the numbers will be balanced. Also by that time, three more squadrons of Sukhoi Su-30 jets will have been inducted, while two Rafale squadrons are also expected to arrive in the same time frame.
“We are taking care of keeping the balance,” he said.
On the creation of of a Chief of Defence Staff, the minister said a decision will be jointly taken with that on the ‘tooth to tail’ ratio and the issue of ‘jointness’ in the forces, which was mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the combined commanders’ conference on board INS Vikramaditya last year.
On the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission, to which the armed forces have expressed reservations, the minister said a decision will be taken soon.