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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/16/16

What is BRICS member India really up to?

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Reprinted from RT

Narendra Modi - India Prime Minister

You may have never heard of LEMOA. In Global South terms, LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum Agreement) is quite a big thing, signed in late August by Indian Defense Minister Mohan Parrikar and Pentagon supremo Ash Carter.

As Carter spun it four months before the signing, LEMOA rules that US forces "may" be deployed to India under special circumstances. Essentially, Delhi will allow Washington to refuel and keep contingents and equipment in Indian bases -- but only in case of war.

In theory, India is not offering the US any permanent military base. Yet considering the Pentagon's track record that may of course change in a flash.

No wonder Indian nationalists were outraged -- insisting there is no strategic gain out of this gambit, especially for a nation that is very proud of being one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

The cozying up to the Pentagon happens just a few months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- who had been denied a US visa for nearly a decade -- addressed a joint meeting of Congress in a blaze of glory, declaring that India and the US are natural allies" and calling for a closer partnership.

Modi went no holds barred, even referring to Gandhi's influence on Rev. Martin Luther King's nonviolent civil disobedience strategy -- something that could not but earn him a standing ovation in Capitol Hill.

The "closer" partnership does involve military and nuclear issues. As Modi reminded Congress -- which needed no reminding -- the industrial-military complex sold weapons to India "from almost zero to $10 billion in less than a decade."

Then there's the US-India nuclear cooperation deal, which opens a window for US corporations to build and supply Indian nuclear power reactors. And eventually Washington is bent to share "some" -- and the operative concept is "some" -- military technology with Delhi.

Geopolitically, this all boils down to what happened recently in the Philippine Sea, as the US, Japan and India practiced anti-submarine warfare and air defense maneuvers; practical evidence of the "pivot to Asia," as in re-tweaking Asia's naval-security "order" to counteract -- who else -- China.

Modi performs geopolitical yoga

Yet things are not as black and white -- from the Indian point of view. It's no secret that key sectors of the Indian diaspora in the US are quite integrated with the Washington consensus and usual suspect hegemony mechanisms such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Rand Corporation. But Modi's game is way more sophisticated.

Modi's priority is to solidify India as the top South Asian power. So he cannot afford to antagonize Washington. On the contrary; he's getting the US on board his vastly ambitious Make in India strategy ("a major national initiative designed to facilitate investment; foster innovation; enhance skill development; protect intellectual property; and build best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure.")

Naturally, US corporations -- heavy supporters of TPP -- are salivating at the lucrative prospects. The drive is similar to what China did decades ago, but now with emphasis on "protection of intellectual property" to attract the TPP-obsessed crowd.

Another geopolitical Modi goal is to forcefully present India -- not Pakistan -- to Washington as the ideal reliable/rational partner in South Asia. That's dicey, because for the Pentagon the multiple declinations of the war on terra in AfPak are de facto being configured as something like Operation Enduring Freedom Forever.

And then there's once again the military angle: India diversifying its weapons suppliers -- mostly it buys from Russia -- towards the US, but not that much, establishing a careful balance.

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)

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