Team of specialists from US held meeting with their counterparts on Indian side in New Delhi to negotiate text of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), a foundational military communications agreement. The meeting was held as part of preparations for 2+2 dialogue between foreign and defence ministers of India and US scheduled to be held in Washington in July 2018.
This meeting has resumed talks on COMCASA and it will try to address India’s observations on it. India was not keen on signing two other foundational agreements — COMCASA and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) after it had signed military logistics agreement with US in 2016.
Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
COMCASA is one of three foundational agreements that guide US high technology cooperation in defence sector with other countries. It was earlier called Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) before name was changed to reflect its India-specific nature. Other two agreements are Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and BECA.
COMCASA is meant to facilitate use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India by US to fully exploit their potential. It essentially provides legal framework for transfer of communication security equipment from US to India that will facilitate interoperability between armed forces of both countries and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.
Interoperability in this case means that there will be access to encrypted and secret technologies or communications. India is currently dependent on commercially available and less secure communication systems on high-end US defence platforms like C-130Js and P8I maritime surveillance aircraft.
Officials from Defence ministry have held reservations about signing COMCASA as they fear US’s intrusive access to Indian military communication systems. They also fear that indigenous Indian military and large quantity of Russian-origin platforms may not be compatible with COMCASA.