In the crucial military and political meeting, delegations from both the countries discussed many important issues to strengthen India-US relationship including the historic Communication Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA).
Great significance is being attached to the COMCASA agreement that will enable India to access advanced U.S. defence systems and optimally utilise its existing US-origin platforms.
There has been mounting concerns in India over the U.S. sanctions against Russian defence majors including Rosoboronexport as billions of dollars of military purchases may be impacted because of the punitive measure.
The Obama administration designated India as a major defense partner for the United States, and the Trump administration hopes to build upon that with the new agreement as China looms in the region. In January, the Donald Trump administration had endorsed India’s quest for membership into the exclusive club but New Delhi has faced roadblocks from Beijing, which has insisted that India was not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
This summer Chinese naval forces conducted surveillance of the two navies during the 2018 Malabar exercise.
One of most significant outcomes of the Comcasa is likely to be the creation of a military communications hub that will house the Comcasa-compliant equipment to enable real-time data link with a similar facility in the US.
The day began on Thursday with separate bilateral meetings between the defence and foreign policy heads of India and the U.S. at the respective ministries in Delhi. But the United States has not extricated itself from its dependence on Pakistan in the Afghan issue, so how far it can cater to India’s request is worth pondering.
Modi, he notes, is long past the days when, as the top official in the Indian state of Gujarat, he was denied a USA visa because of accusations he did not do enough to quell 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots.
Swaraj also noted that there was a growing convergence of views, including on the Indo-Pacific, during the discussion among the four ministers.
The US and India, he said, already have the foundation in their commitment to “a safe, secure prosperous and free Indo-Pacific region where sovereignty of all nations is respected, global norms are upheld, disputes are resolved peacefully and nations freely transit worldwide waters and airspace”.
In their joint statement, the ministers called on Pakistan to ensure that their territory was not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.
The U.S. earlier this year offered armed Guardian drones to India, but the sale could not go through until the agreement, known as COMCASA, was reached. While the United States did help with some information, it came with a certain time-lag as it had to be physically passed through different security layers to reach India.
American-led sanctions against Iran are set to begin November 8, following President Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal engineered by President Obama.
“What the protocol will be in sharing information linked to non-US systems is something that is not yet clear”, he said.
Pompeo also clarified that in India, while issues like the effect of USA sanctions on India’s purchase of the S400 Triumpf air missile defence system from Russian Federation and oil from Iran might be discussed, they would not be stumbling blocks in the talks.