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India to soften stance to push US defence pact

The renewal of the pact would necessitate India to sign agreements required under the US laws for the transfer of sophisticated military technology and weapons to a country. The agreement would allow their warships and aircraft to access each other’s bases, refuel and, in case of emergency, operate side by side.

Sources say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated that the Defence Ministry should explore “convergence” with the US on the issues in the ‘agreement’ while renewing the 2005 Defence framework pact, under which the US has supplied $10 billion worth of weapons to India.

Political opposition had forced the Congress-led government to skirt around the contentious agreements. However, with Narendra Modi enjoying a majority in the Lok Sabha on his own sees an opportunity to push through the pacts. According to a news channel quoting sources, these agreements would be the core of negotiations between India and the US for renewing a 10-year Defence Framework pact. The discussions ended on Wednesday, setting the stage for announcements to be made during President Barack Obama’s visit.

Quoting sources, the channel said, the US handed over “Non Papers” - or informal discussion papers - asking India to consider the agreements. In response, New Delhi asked how these would benefit India. The pacts include the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement, the Logistics Support Agreement and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for geo-spatial cooperation. Sources say New Delhi’s apprehensions on these pacts are wearing thin.

“Signing the agreements will institutionalise what is already routine. Indian ships replenishing supplies in Gulf with US support or vice versa. There is hardly any request that is denied on either side,” a senior Defence Ministry official is reported to have said.

India may throw in sovereign guarantee
Seeking to remove the hurdles in operationalising the Indo-US nuclear deal ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit beginning Sunday, the Indian government may throw-in sovereign guarantee to address the concerns of foreign suppliers over the nuclear liability law. Another option, which was being explored, was issuing of catastrophe bonds or a blend of catastrophe bond and sovereign guarantee, government sources said, adding that the idea of catastrophe bond was suggested by the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA).

Government sources said, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Ministry of Finance has been working on the issue on “day-to-day basis” to end the deadlock between India and the US over the liability clause under the Civil Liability Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act 2010, which was one of the issues discussed between the officials of India and the US during their meeting here which concluded late last night. According to the sources, progress was made during the two-day meeting of Indo-US Contact Group here, but some lingering issues may require resolution at the political level.
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