India-US defense deal

India and the US signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement  (COMCASA),paving the way for transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India which will facilitate “Inter-operability” between the forces and potentially with other militaries that use US- origin systems for secured data links. It will strengthen strategic cooperation between the two countries. There are more than 50 bilateral dialogue mechanisms between the two governments. This agreement is the highest level of engagement between Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. They both welcomed the agreement. It is part of a set of three agreements that the US considers foundational for a functional military relationship. A hotline has been established between India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj and the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. The two sides also agreed to secure communication. Pompeo has said that India and the US have entered a new era of growth. The COMCASA will enable Indian military to get a better picture of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) which is seeing increasing Chinese movements.

To keep an eye on Chinese submarines and ships, both sides reviewed the growth of bilateral engagement in support of maritime security and maritime domain awareness. However it seems in conflict with a growing understanding between Russia, China and India on the Pacific Rim region. India and the US have agreed to start exchanges between US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy to deepen maritime cooperation. India and the US will be entitled to licence-free exports, re-exports and transfers under Licence Exception Strategic Trade Authorisation and also committed to explore other means to further expansion in two way trade in defence items and defence manufacturing supply chain linkages. Sushma Swaraj welcomed President Trump’s South Asia policy and his call to Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism. Both called upon Pakistan to punish those responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai outrage and not to allow its territory to be used to launch attacks on other countries. The two sides have also expressed joint support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

An important aspect of the COMCASA is that both India and the US have also decided to work together towards India’s entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The only concerns expressed in some quarters are that this would allow US Navy access to India’s own secure communication network and that the information shared with the US will be accessible by Pakistan. These fears have, however, been brushed aside.