The agreement was signed during the inaugural 2+2 dialogue defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has with their US counterparts US defence secretary Jim Mattis and secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
India had already signed two agreements: the General Security Of Military Information Agreement in 2002, on safeguarding information shared by the US military and defence firms with India, and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement in 2016, which gives both countries access to designated military facilities on either side for refuelling and replenishment.
Nirmala Sitharaman, Sushma Swaraj, Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis at the joint press conference
WHAT IT MEANS: COMCASA ensures interoperability of communication devices and networks.
WHICH MEANS: a. The US could instal its secure communication devices in jets India buys from it in future (earlier jets did not have that).
b. Will allow India to buy high-end spying devices and armed drones (such as Sea Guardian drones).
c. India gets access to secure US military communication link such as Link 16, originally designed for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or Nato.
Link 16 is a communications system that allows near real-time exchange of data among various security systems and militaries that use them — it was first installed in AWACS (a US plane-mounted radar system) and at the US, UK and Nato ground-control facilities. Since then others like South Korea have joined. Now, India too.
The irony is that India joins the list at a time Europe’s relations with Trump’s US are under stress — France’s Macron had recently called for a “European Nato” and the idea of developing a nuclear weapon is finding more backers in Germany.
Meanwhile, Pompeo said the country is not seeking to punish India for buying Russian weapons, thus tacitly giving an NOC to the purchase of S-400 missile system. Yet COMCASA incentivises the purchase of US weapons as the Russian system is incompatible with the US communication network.
Pompeo and Mattis are in the national capital for talks aimed at deepening political and security ties between the two world’s largest democracies.