Strategic experts on Tuesday welcomed the India-US military logistics agreement, saying it has been "long delayed".
However, former Defence Minister A K Antony, who had earlier said the agreement will end "independence of India's foreign policy and strategic autonomy", on Tuesday refused to comment on the deal inked on Monday in Washington.
When contacted by IANS, Antony said: "I will not comment unless I read the agreement."
India and the US inked the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in Washington on Monday.
The major concern expressed by different sections is that India, which had chosen to remain non-aligned post-independence and through the Cold War period, must not enter the NATO block by supporting US troops.
Experts have now dispelled the apprehension that the LEMOA will make India a part of the US bloc.
Strategic expert and Director of Society for Policy Studies C Uday Bhaskar termed the agreement as a delayed, but welcome move.
"Basically it is about a protocol that allows both sides to exchange logistic supplies. The classic example is if, say, an Indian naval ship is in Southeast Asia and needs fuel at short notice, and a US tanker is in the near vicinity — the latter can provide the fuel to the Indian vessel," Bhaskar told IANS.
"It is a bit like an ATM card for basic supplies. Something that covers the bandwidth of logistic supplies, like water, fuel, food, etc. If needed, it will facilitate access to repair facilities as well. For example, if a military aircraft or ship is outside the radius of Indian maintenance facilities, and requires some urgent repair and if the other side has the capacity, it can be provided. The quid pro is if the US requires such assistance, India will provide the same," Bhaskar said.
"However, since they (US) are a larger military power, India will stand to benefit and LEMOA enhances India's operational reach and sustainability," he added.
Bhaskar also clarified that this does not mean India is a part of the US military bloc.
"But this does not imply we become a US military ally. We are not obliged to provide support to any and every US military operation in the region. Every LEMOA arrangement has to be negotiated in advance," he said.
"It will be more useful in case of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It does make you a partner in terms of providing public good, whether it is anti piracy or tsunami relief."
Member of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)'s Defence Economics and Industry Centre, Laxman Behera, called it a "step forward" in consolidating the India-US strategic partnership.
"This is one step further in consolidating India-US partnership in defence. It was long overdue, and will provide a framework for logistics support," Behera told IANS.
Behera said it will benefit the Navy the most, as ships can use logistics support and pay later. This also assumes significance as Indian Naval ships are expanding their reach and travelling across the world, visiting different countries.
"Our ships sailing across the world can take advantage of US bases. We will have to pay for the service, but the payment will be made later," said Behera.
The expert, however, added that the more important part of the agreement was its "political symbolism", rather than the financial aspects.