- Putting an end to speculations, India and the United States have signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) on Thursday afternoon during the first ever ‘2+2’ talks between the countries. Addressing the media in a joint statement with United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said both nations have also agreed on working together towards entry of India in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
- The landmark COMCASA agreement is likely to open the way for sales of more sensitive US military equipment to India. The agreement was reached after Pompeo and United States Defence Secretary James ‘Jim’ Mattis met Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Swaraj in New Delhi for the dialogue. COMCASA comes as a major boost for India which was designated as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ in 2016 by the US.
Here is all you need to know about COMCASA –
1. It is one of the three foundational defence pacts that needs to be signed by a country in order to obtain high-tech military hardware from the US. Before COMCASA, India had signed only one of these agreements – Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) – in 2016. The two countries are yet to begin talks on the third agreement – Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
2. The agreement will give Indian military access to function on high-end secured and encrypted communication equipment which are installed on American platforms obtained by Indian Armed Forces. These platforms include C-130 J, C-17, P-8I aircraft, and Apache and Chinook helicopters.
3. The act is usually known as the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA). But, it was changed to COMCASA to signify its India-specific alterations.
4. It will also provide a legal framework for the transfer of encrypted communication security equipment from the US to India. It is believed to be safer and more secure than the system that India uses right now. “Signing of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) will enable India to access advanced technologies from USA,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said while addressing the media.
5. The agreement was pending for almost ten years. One of the major reasons for this was the fear that India may compromise its operational independence. Critics had also pointed out that the agreement could jeopardise India’s established military ties with Russia and access to their weapons systems.
The agreement is also of political significance with the general elections scheduled to take place next year. In 2016, the BJP government had to face a lot of criticism from the opposition parties for signing LEMOA.
These agreements and Donald Trump administration’s decision to give India STA-1 status (Strategic Trade Authorization-1) shows the country’s importance in the US strategic calculus.