With the US Navy signing two Master Ship Repair Agreements (MSRA) with Indian shipbuilders in recent months, India has further strengthened its cooperation with the US defence establishments. The development was applauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Joe Biden in a joint statement issued after their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit that concluded in Delhi on September 10.

While the most recent MSRA was signed by the U.S. Navy and Mazgaon Dock Shipbuilders, Ltd., in August 2023, the first one with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Shipyard Kattupalli, was signed in April. Responding to the development on X (earlier Twitter) opposition leader Manish Tewari of the Indian National Congress had asked whether such an agreement is a precursor to providing US military bases on Indian soil. He also wanted the ruling NDA/ BJP to clarify the matter in Parliament.

The joint statement issued after the Modi-Biden meeting said both sides are recommitted to advancing India’s emergence as a hub for the maintenance and repair of forward-deployed U.S. Navy assets and other aircraft and vessels. The leaders also welcomed further commitments from the U.S. industry to invest more in India’s maintenance, repair, and overhaul capabilities and facilities for aircraft.

The leaders also welcomed the completion of the US Congressional Notification process and the commencement of negotiations for a commercial agreement between GE Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) to manufacture GE F-414 jet engines in India and recommitted to work collaboratively and expeditiously to support the advancement of this unprecedented co-production and technology transfer proposal.

In a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha in August, Ajay Bhatt, minister of state in the Ministry of Defence had said while there is no reciprocal agreement in existence or in negotiation to allow the repairs of Indian Ships in American Shipyards, the MSRA signed between Indian shipyards and U.S. Navy allows American navy vessels to undertake repairs in these shipyards. He also mentioned that MSRA with Mazagon Docks Limited and Goa Shipyard Limited was at an advanced stage at that time. The MSRA includes clauses on security, payments, liabilities, etc. The agreement is reviewed every five years, or as required, he clarified.

The U.S. Consul General in Chennai Judith Ravin had in July called the first MSRA a landmark development and termed it as a symbol of a strengthened U.S.-India partnership. The USNS Salvor was mentioned as the first U.S. vessel to conduct a mid-voyage repair at L&T under this agreement. Ravin had also stated that the MSRA will fast-track U.S. Government contracting processes for repair work and advances the Indian government’s indigenous production and logistics goals. Shipyards with MSRA certification can bid for U.S. Navy and Military Sealift Command (MSC) ship repair contracts.

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