India sheds ‘Quad’-reluctance; has logistics pact with all members

Inks pact with Japan, just 3-months after one with Australia

IDD Explainer

From being a reluctant player in the ‘Quad’, or the Quadrilateral, India is now shedding its ambivalence, to openly work towards making the alliance stronger and a seamlessly effective entity in the Indo-Pacific.

The four country ‘Quad’, has India, US, Japan and Australia  and  is seen as joint front in the Indo-Pacific. Though it is not expressed in as many words, the ‘Quad’ is aimed to counter China’s hegemony in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, growing presence in the Indian Ocean. India and Japan have their own territorial disputes with   Beijing, the latter has dubious territorial claims.

On September 10, India and Japan announced an agreement allowing the forces of either country to seek supplies, services, transport, fuel, food and communication etc at each other’s bases.

For the Indo-Pacific this was important as it completes India’s arrangement of sharing military logistics with the other three members, allowing for smooth operations and a wider foot-print for either country. For Japan, to be operating in the Indian Ocean Region, a pact with India helps. So far, it relied, for logistics, on US bases in Djibouti on the Africa coast or the US base at Diego Garcia, on an island in the Indian Ocean.

Indian warships at ex-Malabar in Japan in 2019. PIB

The India-Japan logistics sharing comes just three months after India-Australia announced such a sharing in June this year. Notably, both agreements – that seamlessly allow ‘Quad’ countries to use military facilities of each other — come while India and China are locked in a border dispute in Ladakh since May this year.

The US, Japan and Australia already had such a logistics exchange programme, amongst each other

Rapid change

In April 2016, India and the US had agreed in principle to conclude a logistics exchange memorandum of agreement (LEMOA), the same was signed  in August that year. In the meantime India showed reluctance to be even participating in a multi-nation military exercises having US, Japan and Australia together.

In the past three years Japan has joined the India-US annual exercise called the ‘Malabar’ and Australia is expected to join in during exercise scheduled in October -November this year. The last time the four exercised together was in 2007, then Beijing raised objections calling it an anti-China move. New Delhi back-tracked and diplomatically maintained a  balance US and China.

Indian diplomats have, for long, managed to work with US and Russia and maintained successful strategic relations with both. In case of China, there was never a India-China strategic relationship, so it made it easier for New Delhi to pick sides and be openly associated with ‘Quad’. Since June, New Delhi has banned the import of several Chinese goods and more than 150 mobile applications or ‘Apps’.

From a reluctant player in the ‘Quad’, or the Quadrilateral, India is now shedding its ambivalence, to openly work towards making the alliance stronger and a seamlessly effective entity in the Indo-Pacific.
L-R, HMA Ships Canberra, Hobart and Stuart depart Sydney Harbour for a period of Force Integrated Training in June this year.

Moves in the past three months show India is cementing ties within the ‘Quad’ as relations between New Delhi and Beijing remain edgy. Troops of either sides have had a deadly clash on June 15  and another one on August 31 when bullets were fired.

What does it mean

The logistics agreements are expected to help the ‘Quad’ to expand its Naval footprint and outreach. The US has a string of bases in East Africa, Persian Gulf, Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean), The Philippines, Japan, Australia and Japan. Indian bases like those at Andaman  Nicobar islands sit close to the busiest shipping channel.  Ports at Goa, Porbandar  and Mumbai on the west coast will help all three other members. The  Indian east coast has Vishakapatnam and  Tuticorin. At all these places warships and planes of ‘Quad’ members can seek similar refuel and repair facilities at these bases.

The agreement

India and Japan signed an  agreement on ‘reciprocal provision of supplies and services between forces of both countries’, a statement of the Indian Ministry of Defence said.

The agreement was signed in New Delhi by Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and Ambassador of Japan  Suzuki Satoshi.

Key points of the agreement are listed . Read full text here

  • To conduct  exercises and training with participation by both the Self-Defense Forces of Japan and the Indian Armed Forces.
  • United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, humanitarian international relief operations, or operations to cope with large scale disasters in the territory of either Party or a third country
  • Protection measures or transportation of nationals of either Party or others, if appropriate, for their evacuation from overseas in case of exigencies of the situation.
  • Communication and coordination or other routine activities (including visits of ships or aircraft of the forces of either Party to facilities in the territory of the other Party), with the exception of exercises and training conducted unilaterally by the forces of either Party.Any other activity in which the provision of supplies and services is permitted under the laws and regulations of the respective countries.

The agreement will also enhance the interoperability between the Armed Force of India and Japan thereby further increasing the bilateral defence engagements under the ‘Special Strategic & Global Partnership’ between the two countries, the Indian statement said. Read it here

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephonic conversation with Japanese Prime Minister  Shinzo Abe on September 10.

Modi and Abe at meeting at Osaka. File pic.PIB

The two leaders welcomed the signing of the agreement of supplies and services between the armed forces of the two countries. They said the agreement will further enhance the depth of defence cooperation between the two countries and contribute to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

The two leaders expressed confidence that the strong momentum attained by the India-Japan partnership in the last few years will continue unabated in the future.

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