- Indian and U.S. experts began a three-day consultation to find meeting points in bilateral relations in preparation for the first-ever meeting of the Ministers for External Affairs and Defence with their U.S. counterparts next month.
Highlights of the meeting
- The meeting in Washington DC between Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman and their U.S. counterparts, called the two-plus-two discussions, is going to be held in July.
- The 2+2 discussion is expected to further cement the India-U.S. engagements.
- The key focus area of the meeting is finding a breakthrough in concluding the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA).
About the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
- Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) was formerly known as the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
- It is one of the three foundational agreements that help the U.S. to intensify its defence cooperation with a partner nation.
- The COMCASA will enable Indian military to obtain critical, secure and encrypted defence technologies from the other country.
- The agreements are a key requirement by Washington for sharing h-tech military hardware, especially armed drones which the U.S. is willing to supply to India.
- COMCASA becomes necessary in case classified military information is required to be exchanged between US and Indian defence forces.
- Sale of armed drones is high on the agenda of the 2+2 dialogue.
Other two foundational Defence agreements of U.S
The proposal from the US Government for conclusion of the three Foundational Agreements with India has been under discussion since at least 2011. These agreements are:
- Logistical Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) formerly known as the Logistic Support Agreement (LSA).
- LEMOA is an agreement for the exchange of logistics support and supplies that are generally required during combined exercises, port calls and cooperative efforts in unforeseen exigencies like in an HADR situation.
- This agreement essentially facilitates the provision of services and support that either party may need when in an out-of-country situation.
- It also ensures that the financial transactions and billing is correct and timely.
- The agreement is not expected to serve as a mutual defence treaty.
- Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA):
- Itprovides for sharing and data gathering of geospatial information.
- It is expected to provide access to unclassified geospatial data that improves navigation planning for exercises and geospatial training for coproducing geospatial products; this is an area where India has limited technical/technological expertise.
About India-U.S defence relations
- Indications are emerging from the U.S. side is that they are keen to stress the importance given to India in its Indo-Pacific strategy.
- In this context only, The U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) was recently renamed Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), symbolic of the significance U.S. attaches to India in the region.
- Apart from the foundational agreements, the U.S. is also keen on a broad based intelligence-sharing agreement with India as the two countries have vastly expanded their counter-terror cooperation.
- In this context, the fourth foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), will be significant.
- As part of improving high tech cooperation, India and the U.S. announced the ambitious Defence Technology and Trade Initiative and India was designated a major defence partner.
- The U.S. has been engaging India since 2002 on the foundational agreements, but successive governments in India have been wary of giving in to the U.S. demands.
- New Delhi has shed its traditional reluctance and has been open to COMCASA, with both sides holding several rounds of discussions in recent times. T
- COMCASA and BECA are the two foundational agreements that India is yet to sign.
- It has already signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).
- The most significant of them is LEMOA, which gives both nations access to each other’s military facilities but it does not make it automatic or obligatory.
- However, India had concerns on some of the clauses and the language of COMCASA, which both sides would attempt to address in the discussions going on.