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Mainstream, VOL LV No 1 New Delhi December 24, 2016 - ANNUAL 2016

Letter to PM by CPI-M General Secretary

Sitaram Yechury Demands Government Statement on Commitment of India as USA’s ‘Major Defense Partner’

Monday 26 December 2016


The following is the text of a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by CPI-M General Secretary and MP Sitaram Yechury on December 12, 2016 regarding the finalisation of the ‘Major Defense Partner’ designation to India by the USA.

Dear Pradhan Mantri-ji,

I am writing to you in connection with the finalisation of the ‘Major Defense Partner’ designation to India by the United States of America, as announced through a joint statement issued by your Ministry on December 8, 2016. This follows the announcement of signing of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) between the US and Indian Defence Ministries earlier this year.

The ‘Major Defense Partner’ designation is, as the statement says, “a status unique to India”, and brings “India to a level at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners”. This is a significant departure from India’s longstanding policy on defence relations and it has been done without taking Parliament into confidence.

While the US Government has placed the details of ‘Major Defense Partner’ designation for approval of the US Senate as part of FY 2017 National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), your government has not even made a statement in Parliament about such a significant deal. The country can see the US side of the deal by reading the 2017 NDAA, but remains ignorant of the Indian commitment as a ‘Major Defense Partner’ of the United States.

I would like to draw your attention to Paragraph (E) of Sec. 1292 of 2017 NDAA, which talks of “mechanisms to verify the security of defense articles, defense services, and related technology, such as appropriate cyber security and end user monitoring agreements” for items and technologies sold to India. Paragraph (F) thereafter states that India will align its “export control and procurement regimes with those of the United States”. These are significant concessions made by your government which will make Indian defence forces open to American scrutiny, and Indian defence production under the control of the United States of America.

Serious apprehensions arise about your government compromising India’s sovereignty and strategic autonomy. Paragraph (I) of Sec. 1292, 2017 NDAA makes the facts amply clear. It explicitly highlights enhanced “defense and security cooperation with India in order to advance United States interests in South Asia and greater Indo-Asia-Pacific regions”. This is, sadly, a commitment by your government to become a junior ally of the US in our own neighbourhood. This represents the final nail in the coffin of India’s independent foreign policy.

It is particularly galling that all these commitments, as part of the announcement of the ‘Major Defense Partner’ designation, were made by the Defence Ministry when both the Houses of Parliament were, and still are, in session. This is in complete contravention of the established norms and practices of our parliamentary system.

I am further constrained to state that your government seems particularly keen on ignoring Parliament, because even the text of the LEMOA has so far not been placed before either of the Houses, or the Standing Committee on Defence. It needs no reminder that Parliament represents the people of this great country and by choosing to wilfully ignore Parliament, you are disrespecting 1.3 billion Indians.

I demand that both these texts must be tabled in Parliament and made public immediately.

I hope that as part of your government’s responsibilities towards Parliament, you will place the full text of the LEMOA and the list of commitments made as part of the “Major Defense Partner” designation before both the Houses of Parliament immediately before this current winter session adjourns.

With regards,

Yours sincerely,

Sitaram Yechury

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