Washington: Taking a step towards building defence ties, India and the United States on Monday signed an agreement governing the use of each other`s land, air and naval bases for repair and resupply.
Welcoming the signing of the bilateral 'Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement' (LEMOA), Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said the pact will facilitate opportunities for "practical engagement and exchange".
LEMOA facilitates the provision of logistical support, supplies, and services between the US and Indian militaries on a reimbursable basis, and provides a framework to govern them.
"They agreed on the importance (that) this framework will provide to facilitate innovative and advanced opportunities in defence technology and trade cooperation. To this end, the US has agreed to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners," said a joint statement after the pact was signed.
According to the statement, the defence ties between the two countries is based on their "shared values and interests," and their "abiding commitment to global peace and security."
During their meeting, Parrikar and Carter discussed the "wealth of progress" in bilateral cooperation and deepening strategic partnership between the United States and India.
The US military has made clear it wants to do more with India, especially in countering China, which US officials say is risking stoking conflict through its claims in the South China Sea, a vital trade waterway.
Without naming China, both Carter and Parrikar mentioned the importance of the free flow of trade to both countries.
"India and the United States have a shared interest in freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce as part of rule-based order in (the) Indo-Pacific," Parrikar said.
The US has agreed to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners.
The visit - their sixth official interaction to date - demonstrates the importance both sides place on strengthening defence ties across many areas: from strategic and regional cooperation, to deepened military-to-military exchanges, to expanded collaboration on defence technology and innovation, it said.
Welcoming India's membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Carter reaffirmed US support for India's membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
Acknowledging India's positive contributions to regional security and stability, including in matters beyond the maritime space, Carter and Parrikar announced their agreement to further consultations in the area, including through the next Maritime Security Dialogue, scheduled later this year.
During his stay in the US, Parrikar will visit Boeing's manufacturing facility at Philadelphia. He would also interact with American defence industry representatives at an event organised by the US-India Business Council (USIBC).
Earlier on Monday, Parrikar was accorded an enhanced honor cordon by Carter after he arrived at the Pentagon here.
The enhanced honour is reserved for valued guests. During normal cordon, visitors are greeted at the Pentagon stairs and welcomed with handshakes, before proceeding inside. During the enhanced honour cordon, national anthems are played.
Parrikar, accompanied by Carter, also laid a wreath at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.
Carter and Parrikar noted the recent official exchanges, including the visit to New Delhi of General John Nicholson for consultations on Afghanistan, as well as by the Secretary of the US Navy and the Secretary of the US Air Force this month.
They welcomed the progress achieved under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) so far. In Delhi in July this year, India and the US decided to broaden its agenda by setting up five joint working groups on naval systems, air systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, chemical and biological protection, and other systems.
The two leaders noted the signing of an information exchange annex under the framework of the Aircraft Carrier Joint Working Group.
Carter and Parrikar agreed to continue their close consultation on 'Make in India' proposals and praised the discussions at the inaugural Maritime Security Dialogue held in May.
They welcomed the conclusion of the bilateral 'White Shipping' technical arrangement for data sharing on commercial shipping traffic and also discussed cooperation on capabilities to augment India's capacity for maritime domain awareness (MDA).
Welcoming the continued efforts by the militaries of the two countries to deepen bilateral cooperation and expand opportunities for greater collaboration, the two leaders commended the recent completion of the Malabar naval exercise with Japan and India's participation in the Rim-of-the-Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in Hawaii, as well as the Red Flag Air Force Exercise in Alaska.
They were encouraged by increased complexity in the 'Yudh Abhyas' Army exercise scheduled in September in India.
The two leaders agreed to facilitate greater and regular interactions to deepen mutual understanding between military services and promote practical cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, special operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
(With Agency inputs)