New Delhi: India and the UK are in the final stages of signing a defense logistics sharing pact, adding to a series of similar agreements with players in the Indo-Pacific that can greatly expand the reach of Indian warships and aircraft in the region.
The logistics pact, which will enable reciprocal use of bases and airfields for fuel, supplies, and spares, has been under discussion with the UK, besides an agreement on joint training. India will have pacts with at least seven major nations that have interests in the Indo-Pacific.
“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, who heads the maritime policy initiative at the Observer Research Foundation.
While the practical use will be determined in coming years, these pacts can give India access to a range of ports and military bases in the region – from major garrisons in the Gulf to the remote Keeling island in the South Indian Ocean and strategic military locations like Okinawa and Busan.
India currently has logistics sharing pacts with the US, France, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and Japan. Advanced discussions are also on with Russia to ink the pact soon – possibly at the next bilateral meeting scheduled for this month.
“The agreement with the UK in a way provides a foundational access map for the Indian Navy across the 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,” says Darshana Barua, Non-Resident Scholar, Carnegie Endowment.
While India has been very careful in using these pacts – occasional refueling at sea and bases has taken places with the US, Indian planes have used the Reunion islands as a turnaround base and Singapore has acted as a hub – the potential to leverage these should be visible in coming years as the naval footprint increases in the region to counter China’s ambitions.
China has started creating military bases in the Indian Ocean Region – starting with Djibouti – while India has opted for the more benign approach by entering into logistics sharing pacts that ensure adequate reach for forces, without any underlying territorial aspirations.