Monday, August 17, 2009

Indo-US End-Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA): Advantage or Disadvantage

Here's a story Dr. Satish Misra has done on the Indo-US EUMA, where he has taken opinions from various scholars at Observer Research Foundation including mine.

The opposition to the End-Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA), concluded between India and the United States during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit last month, has been more or less on expected lines with the opposition parties accusing the Congress-led UPA government of compromising the “sovereignty” and surrendering the vital national interests to the Americans and the ruling combine defending it on grounds of a long-felt need to “diversify” the sources of country’s defence procurement.

Much of the debate also stems from lack of availability of the full text of the EUMA in the public domain which has led to a degree of uninformed articulation by experts as well.

“The EUMA has received contrasting reactions from members of the Indian strategic community because in absence of a declared text, it is difficult to assess the net worth of this agreement,” says Senior Fellow Deba Ranjan Mohanty who has been studying the Indian defence industry over a decade.

In absence of a declared text of the EUMA, the agreement is prone to all kind of interpretations, points out Mr. Mohanty and adds that “while a section of the experts like former Indian Air Force chief Krishnaswamy have criticised or shown reservation towards the agreement, there are others like former Defence Secretary K Subrahmanyam have supported the EUMA.

The opposition to the EUMA is essentially “political”, says ORF Senior Fellow Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan. “Possibly, one can see a point in the Left parties opposition to the EUMA as these parties have always been ideologically opposed to the US and anything which India does with the US, opposition is expected from these quarters”, she points out reminding of the Left’s withdrawal of the support to the UPA government on the issue of Indo-US Nuclear deal.

“But the Bharatiya Janata Party’s opposition to the EUMA is not understandable. If it was in power, it would have concluded a similar agreement”, says Dr Rajagopalan who has been working on “US Military Strategy”.

Till now, the EUMA was applicable on case-to-case basis as and when India bought defence equipment from the US, the agreement, signed during Ms Clinton’s visit, would cover all future defence deals.

Mr. Mohanty says “the EUMA is both good and bad” and lot would depend on how this is put in practice. “On the positive side, this opens up a flow of high tech systems from the US to India. Even if the supplier has a right to sell what it wants to, there is enough scope for India to benefit from flow of technology”.

“This in turn is likely to help the Indian domestic military industrial complex which is being opened up for private participation. The EUMA may contribute to develop private sector into the role of system integrators”, asserts Mr. Mohanty.The whole issue has to be seen in the context of India’s decision to “diversify” its sources of arms procurement, says Senior Fellow Nandan Unnikrishnan.

Mr. Unnikrishnan, who is Euroasia expert at the ORF, says that if the decision has to be implemented then the US figures prominently as one of the sources of defence procurement and India cannot bypass the requirement of EUMA.“ It is a standard requirement for the US companies to be able to sell to any country. If India decided to buy the US military hardware, then it has to sign the EUMA”, says Mr. Unnikrishnan in response to a question whether it is “compulsory”.

On the negative side, the EUMA is designed to preserve the US technology supremacy. Any defence equipment, procured from the US, cannot be used against any of the US allies including Pakistan, points our Mr. Mohanty and adds that in case of a breach of the agreement, the US has the right to withdraw all products and support systems from the recipient country.

Another negative feature is the “birth to death” clause of the EUMA which not only limits the recipient’s necessity to modify any system to suit its operational requirements but also prohibits further innovation, points out Mr. Mohanty saying that it is a “highly restrictive” agreement.

Per say, it need not to be negative to India’s security so long there is no restriction attached to the usage of the equipment to defend India’s interests, says Mr. Unnikrishnan who has studied India-Russia defence relationship closely. Referring to the opposition to the EUMA, Mr. Unnikrishnan avers that this is “new element” to Indian political domain which disturbs “status-quo”. There has been an expression of “concerns” and it is for the Government to ensure that India’s interests are not “compromised”.

To a question if the EUMA compromises Indian “sovereignty”, Dr Rajagopalan says that even after the signing of the agreement, the decision to buy the US military hardware and high-end defence equipment would still vest with New Delhi. Moreover, such agreements have an element of universality. When India sells any military system or equipment to any country, “we also insist on EUMA like agreements”, says Dr Rajagopalan.

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