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The first trilateral meeting between India, Afghanistan and Iran of Coordination Council of Chabahar Agreement was held in Tehran, capital city of Iran. India, Iran and Afghanistan in May 2016, had signed agreement which entailed establishment of transit and transport corridor among three countries using Chabahar Port as one of regional hubs.
Highlights of Meeting
Detailed discussions were held between three sides on full operationalisation of trilateral Agreement for international transit and transport through Chabahar port. They shared view that full operationalisation of Chabahar port will promote connectivity and economic development of Afghanistan and region. They also reviewed its implementation.
They also decided to constitute follow-up committee that will hold its first meeting within two months in Chabahar port. This committee will discuss and aim to finalise protocol to harmonise transit, roads, customs and consular matters for making the route attractive and decrease logistic costs. It was also decided to hold next meeting of the coordination council in India in the first half of 2019.
The meeting assumes significance as strategically-located Chabahar port on energy-rich Iran’s southern coast was coming under ambit of US sanctions on Iran. The sanctions were announced after US under President Donald Trump administration withdrew from 2015 Iran nuclear deal that lifted most of embargoes on Iran imposed for its suspected nuclear weapons programme. India is committed to Chabbar project despite threat of US sanctions on nations doing business with Iran including buying oil or investing in the country. It also has conveyed to US importance of Chabahar project, saying it can be major link for trade with war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Chabahar is strategically located in Sistan-Balochistan province on energy-rich Iran’s southern coast in Gulf of Oman. It is less than 100 nautical miles from Chinese built port of Gwadar in Pakistan. India in 2003 had first proposed developing Chabahar port. The port is seen as golden gateway for India to access landlocked markets of Afghanistan and Central Asian markets bypassing Pakistan. India and Iran had signed lease agreement for operation of Shahid Beheshti port or phase 1 of Chabahar in February 2018. Under the terms of this agreemetn, India Ports Global Ltd (IPGL), an Indian company was to take over interim operations of tport Chabahar and operate terminal for 18 months.
India and United States has signed Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that will lead to a new generation of bilateral military partnership. It was signed at end of inaugural India-US ‘2+2’ Ministerial Dialogue held in New Delhi.
Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
COMCASA is one of the four 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 will be valid for 10 years and came into force immediately it was signed.
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.
By signing COMCASA, India has concluded three of four foundational agreements with US that had been planned for years. It will facilitate use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India by US and fully exploit their potential. These platforms include C-130 J, C-17, P-8I aircraft and Apache and Chinook helicopters. This will also facilitate greater interoperability between forces and military hardware of India and US, and also possibly with other countries that operate on US-origin platforms. COMCASA takes into consideration India’s security and national interests. It will provide full access to relevant equipment and there will be no disruptions. Data acquired through such systems will be not disclosed or transferred to any person or entity without India’s consent. It will be implemented by both countries in manner consistent with national security interests of the other.
They are meant to build basic ground work and promote interoperability between militaries by creating common standards and systems. They also guide sale and transfer of high-end technologies. US signs these agreements with countries with which it has close military ties. India has already signed two of them — General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002 and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016. Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) is the remaining agreement not yet signed by India and negotiations are yet to begin.
- GSOMIA: It allows sharing of classified information from US Government and American companies with Indian government and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) but not with Indian private companies.
- LEMOA: It gives access to both countries and to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment.
- BECA: It facilitates exchange of geospatial information between India and US for both military and civilian use.