The United States and India have signed a military agreement that will enable them to use each other's military assets including land, air and naval bases for repair and replenishment of supplies.
The agreement is a step toward building defense relations in the face of threats posed by China and will help them counter the growing maritime assertiveness of Beijing.
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was signed between US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in Washington on Monday.
The signing of the agreement will "make the logistics of joint operations so much easier and so much more efficient," Carter said in a news briefing with Parrikar.
The deal will facilitate opportunities for "practical engagement and exchange," Carter said, adding, "It's not a basing agreement of any kind.”
The Navy forces of the two countries can have an easier time supporting each other in joint operations and exercises and when providing humanitarian assistance, Parrikar said.
"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," he added.
Even though such agreements are considered routine between the US and its other defense partners, India has had concerns such a pact would commit it to hosting US troops at its bases, or forming a military alliance with the US that would undermine its traditional autonomy.
Both sides "agreed on the importance (that) this framework will provide to facilitate innovative and advanced opportunities in defense technology and trade cooperation. To this end, the US has agreed to elevate defense trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners," said a joint statement after the deal was signed.
China has criticized the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific and suspects Washington’s military drills with countries in the region are part of efforts to contain Beijing.