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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (June 2016)

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India and the United States of America have asserted that the two countries are closing upon an agreement on the details of the long pending Logistics Supply Agreement (LSA). The agreement has been awaiting a signature for almost a decade and now, it is exhibiting symptoms of progress. Indian arguments against the LSA have hovered around its archaic comprehension of sovereignty. Miscellaneous words in the Indian discourse have gained traction, sovereignty is one of them. In an era, where a child can pilot a commercially available toy around the neighbourhood snooping at free will, it is quintessential that India reconsiders its approach to sovereignty as well.

The LSA isn’t an easy fit, so is any other bilateral agreement especially the one between an expansive USA and a continuously insular India. Bilateral agreements are meant to fructify gains for both the parties involved. So India is treading on its gain-lines and is not mono-sided as many would opine the Indians to believe. Conjointly, it compels Indian policy makers to surmise and execute beyond the limitations imposed by territorial boundaries. It is an opportunity to implement beyond courtesy calls on friendly ports.

To assimilate gains from the materialising synergy has been the impetus behind the two decades of Joint or Combined exercises. Grammatically, the two words are different but in the military lexicon, they are often interchangeably used. Either of the words, conveys the same significance that is sought by policy makers ie the sense of joint-ness with friendly foreign militaries. Operational joint-ness with another country or a group of like-minded countries is an extremely important policy statement that goes a long way in ameliorating relations and instilling confidence in the other. A full-fledged battle is always about having confidence in those around you. Joint and Combined training exercises are precisely about that endgame in mind – the possibility of conducting live operations together. The planning is always in an out of area operations; in the locus of lands disturbed by nature or by the shenanigans of mankind. In this new century, the Joint and Combined operational planning is imperative since a large swathe of land is under the sway of extreme politically inspired violence or comes under the attack of forces of nature that are beyond the scope of the affected country. Sri Lanka and Aceh province of Indonesia are a case in point following the devastating Asian tsunami of December 2014.

There are other aspects of transnational jointness that also come under the purview of military diplomacy and which are just as important. They may not make the news but play an important role which cannot be understated. The sight of carrier battle groups exercising jointly or various combat aircrafts of different countries displaying gut wrenching manoeuvres, make for stunning visuals. Even the simple foot soldier parades their differing combat gear, sporting different equipment. All of these visuals make for some catchy stories.

Equally important are the poor rain sodden cadets at military academies arriving from various countries but under the orders of the same directing staff and drill instructors. The fact that a country sends its future military leadership to a foreign land for training speaks volumes about the calibrated degrees of confidence between the nations which is in essence the main fillip behind the need to encourage military diplomacy. This is, after all, the aspect of diplomacy which provides for the greatest variety of options and equally varied solutions to the problems. And this is a field in which India has played an important role and could do much more.

Even as the Indian military training establishments welcome cadets or officers from friendly foreign countries, New Delhi would do well to send more of its soldiers on foreign courses. There have been a number of cases where political clearance, which means the Ministry of External Affairs, has not been given or delayed, for Indianv vacancies in foreign courses. What is important for military knowledge is best left for the military to decide instead of a bureaucrat putting an indelible ink mark. Increasing Indian military presence in diplomatic missions across the globe is another insufficiently fulfilled aspect of military diplomacy. Untapped opportunities is India’s loss, not just that of its military.



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