LEMOA Current Affairs - 2019
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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.
Anil Ambani group led Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited (RDEL) has signed a Master Ship Repair Agreement (MSRA) with the US Navy to provide repair and alteration services for ships of the Seventh Fleet.
With this, RDEL became first Indian company (either public or private) to provide logistical support to the US military within Indian territory.
- Under this agreement, RDEL will maintain the vessels of US Seventh Fleet involving 100 vessels operating in the Indian Ocean.
- The signing of a MSRA agreement is a follow-up to the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) signed between India and US in August 2016.
- These vessels will be serviced and repaired from the RDEL owned private shipyard in Pipavav in Gujarat. This deal is likely to generate Rs. 10,000 crore in revenues for RDEL in the next five years.
- The Pipavav shipyard was qualified and approved by US government to perform complex repair and alteration services for the US Navy after a detailed site survey conducted in October 2016.
- The US Seventh Fleet looks after the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. Currently, these vessels visit Singapore or Japan for such works.
Note: RDIL is the first private sector company in India to obtain the licence and contract to build Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for Indian Navy. Its Pipavav shipyard is only modular shipbuilding facility in India having capacity to build fully fabricated and outfitted blocks.
It is a tweaked India-specific version of the logistics support agreement (LSA), which US has close military to military co-operation with several countries. LEMOA gives access, to both countries, to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment. It should be noted that it does not create any obligations on either Party to carry out any joint activity. It does not provide for the establishment of any bases or basing arrangements.