Indo-US Pact on Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­pat­i­bil­ity and Se­cu­rity Me­moran­dum Agree­ment (COM­CASA)

“The con­clu­sion of the first ever Min­is­te­rial 2+2 between In­dia and the US is a con­crete man­i­fes­ta­tion of the vi­sion of our lead­ers, Prime Min­is­ter Shri Naren­dra Modi and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, to take the In­dia-US re­la­tion­ship to a new level.”

SP's NavalForces - - INDO- US RELATIONS - —Nir­mala Sithara­man, De­fence Min­is­ter REAR AD­MI­RAL SUSHIL RAM­SAY (RETD)

FOR OVER A DEcADE, or more in­trin­sic dis­cus­sions, de­bates, anal­y­sis had been on­go­ing dur­ing in­ter­ac­tions within the strate­gic com­mu­nity at var­i­ous fo­rums; whether or not to sign the com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­pat­i­bil­ity and Se­cu­rity Agree­ment, cOM­cASA for short, of­fered by the US for In­dia. cOM­cASA is an ad­vanced and re­fined ver­sion of com­mu­ni­ca­tion In­ter­op­er­abil­ity and Se­cu­rity Me­moran­dum Agree­ment (cISMOA) which has been specif­i­cally de­signed by US for In­dia. cISMOA is one of the three foun­da­tional agree­ments that the U.S. in­sists on sign­ing with its mil­i­tary al­lies. The other two agree­ments are Lo­gis­tics Sup­port Agree­ment (LSA) and Ba­sic Ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment (BEcA).

Once the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions between the two coun­tries be­gan to im­prove and the ac­qui­si­tion of big-ticket de­fence tech­nolo­gies and plat­forms be­gan to fruc­tify the re­quire­ment of sign­ing of In­dia spe­cific and mod­i­fied ver­sion of LSA called Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Me­moran­dum of Agree­ment (LE­MOA) be­came a con­tentious is­sue within In­dia. Af­ter a rag­ing de­bate on the ef­fi­cacy of LE­MOA for sev­eral years, fi­nally it was signed in 2016.

As was the case with LE­MOA, cOM­cASA too be­came a con­tentious is­sue and the strate­gic com­mu­nity in In­dia was di­vided as cOM­cASA was viewed as highly in­tru­sive to In­dia’s strate­gic in­ter­ests and re­quire­ments. cOM­cASA en­vis­ages the us­age of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment on­board var­i­ous sys­tems bought by In­dia from US. Since this equip­ment will al­most cer­tainly use Amer­i­can en­cryp­tion stan­dards for in­ter-op­er­abil­ity with other US sys­tems, In­dia would need to al­low Amer­i­can ex­perts to ac­cess such equip­ment pe­ri­od­i­cally to in­spect In­dian arms in In­dian mil­i­tary bases. This be­came a ma­jor area of con­cern as a vast per­cent­age of weapons and sys­tems in­ven­tory in In­dia is of non-US ori­gin. Since th­ese would be non-com­pli­ant with Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems, sign­ing of cOM­cASA to ac­quire Amer­i­can sys­tems would make it dif­fi­cult for In­dia to make its own sys­tems in­ter­op­er­a­ble. con­versely, In­dia can­not do with­out ac­quir­ing some of the niche tech­nolo­gies in ar­eas such as Un­manned Aerial Ve­hi­cles, Anti-Sub­ma­rine War­fare and Air­craft car­rier where US is the undis­puted global leader.

how­ever, cOM­cASA is more than just a mil­i­tary agree­ment as for­eign pol­icy com- po­nents are also en­grained into it. Over the past two decades there have been un­prece­dented im­prove­ments in the bi­lat­eral re­la­tions between In­dia and US. con­se­quently, In­dia has be­come a de-facto nu­clear power with the 1-2-3 nu­clear agree­ment, joined Mis­sile Tech­nol­ogy con­trol Regime (MTcR), Wasse­naar Ar­range­ment and the Aus­tralia Group.

In the re­cent past a ma­jor bone of con­tention has emerged with the en­act­ment of coun­ter­ing Amer­ica’s Ad­ver­saries Through Sanc­tions Act (cAATSA) by US congress. The law di­rects the US ad­min­is­tra­tion to pun­ish for­eign coun­tries do­ing busi­ness with Rus­sian de­fence and in­tel­li­gence ap­pa­ra­tus by ap­ply­ing sanc­tions against them. In­dia feels threated by cAATSA pro­vi­sions as In­dia en­joys time-tested and long-stand­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with Rus­sia.

In­dia’s Ad­van­tage

There are many ad­van­tages which In­dia will have sign­ing the cOM­cASA agree­ment. A few ad­van­tages are given be­low: ●●The cOM­cASA pro­vides the le­gal frame­work for the US to part with its sen­si­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment and codes to en­able trans­fer of re­al­time op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion. Ground to air or vice versa ex­change of real/ near real time in­for­ma­tion from air borne plat­forms helps in su­pe­rior sit­u­a­tional aware­ness and bet­ter de­ci­sion mak­ing process. The le­gal frame work is also bind­ing on In­dia as it can­not dis­close this in­for­ma­tion to unau­tho­rised par­ties.

●● In­dia will have ac­cess to US se­cure data links which in turn will pro­vide In­dia big time US in­tel­li­gence in­clud­ing on Pak­istan and china.

●●The cOM­cASA will en­able ‘In­ter­op­er­abil­ity’with US dur­ing joint ex­er­cises and hADR.

●●This agree­ment al­lows US to pro­vide In­dia with their lat­est com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment on plat­forms which they sell to In­dia. Nor­mally In­dia fits its own equip­ment mostly made by Bharat Elec­tron­ics Limited.

●●cOM­cASA will also help In­dia ob­tain the armed ver­sion of drones like the Sea Guardian other­wise US does not per­mit com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems re­quired for armed ver­sions.

●● In­dia has al­ready signed the Lo­gis­tics Ex­change Me­moran­dum of Agree­ment (LE­MOA) with the US and the sign­ing of cOM­cASA, strength­ens In­dia-US mil­i­tary ties. The third agree­ment US makes al­most manda­tory for its close al­lies to sign is Ba­sic Ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment co­op­er­a­tion (BEcA). The way things are mov­ing for­ward, In­dia will sign BEcA in the near fu­ture. Af­ter pro­tracted de­lays, in­tense de­bates, spec­u­la­tions, the much-de­layed par­leys and much an­tic­i­pated first ever 2+2 Di­a­logue between the Sec­re­tary of State, De­fence Sec­re­tary of US and the Min­is­ter of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs and De­fence Min­is­ter of In­dia on Thurs­day, Septem­ber 6, 2018 signed the cOM­cASA Pact that will fa­cil­i­tate In­dia to ac­quire sen­si­tive and niche de­fence tech­nolo­gies from US. While Mike Pom­peo, US De­fence Sec­re­tary termed cOM­cASA agree­ment a “mile­stone” in US-In­dia re­la­tion­ship, Nir­mala Sithara­man as­serted that the pact would en­hance In­dia’s de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity and pre­pared­ness.

Sushma Swaraj, Min­is­ter of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs de­scribed the par­leys, “This meet was a fo­cus on re­gional sta­bil­ity in South Asia, South-East Asia and Indo-Pa­cific... In­dia be­ing a part of groups like the ASEAN also help greatly in this en­deav­our,” She added, “In to­day’s meet we have agreed to speed up the process of In­dia’s en­try into the NSG.”

Mike Pom­peo, US Sec­re­tary of State am­pli­fied, “We have agreed on a hot line between... (Nir­mala) Sithara­man and (Jim) Mat­tis. In­dia and the US stand for free­dom and demo­cratic val­ues... and we aim to ex­tend this across the Indo-Pa­cific... we will work at dif­fer­ent lev­els to en­sure a free Indo-Pa­cific.”

De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man re­it­er­ated, “De­fence came out as the sin­gle­most im­por­tant as­pect of our dis­cus­sions to­day. We have been dis­cussing how we can more openly com­mu­ni­cate back and forth be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of some of the tech­nol­ogy... we have to know that when we share this with an­other like­minded na­tion, that we can keep it se­cure.” Jim Mat­tis re­sponded, “I think that we’re pretty much there al­ready, on the Amer­i­can side.”The US has emerged as In­dia’s se­cond-largest arms sup­plier, clos­ing $15 bil­lion worth of deals in the past decade. Once the cOM­cASA ac­cord is in place it could lead to the sale of an armed ver­sion of Guardian drones, as Wash­ing­ton has so far only au­tho­rised the sale of un­armed, sur­veil­lance ver­sions of the air­craft.

It is earnestly hoped that cOM­cASA Pact could re­duce the chances of the US im­pos­ing sanc­tions un­der cAATSA on In­dia’s in­tent to buy Rus­sian S-400, Tri­amf sur­face-to-air mis­sile sys­tems. how­ever, a new de­fence bill pro­poses giv­ing the US Pres­i­dent the au­thor­ity to grant waivers when na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­ests are at stake.

Mike Pom­peo, US Sec­re­tary of State am­pli­fied, “We have agreed on a hot line between... (Nir­mala) Sithara­man and (Jim) Mat­tis.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: PIB

US Sec­re­tary of De­fence James Mat­tis and De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man ex­chang­ing the doc­u­ments af­ter sign­ing the COM­CASA dur­ing the 2+2 Bi­lat­eral Di­a­logue between the two coun­tries in New Delhi

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