2+2 Dialogue and COMCASA
Recently, the first 2+2 dialogue between India and the US was held in New Delhi. India and the United States have agreed to Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) pact on the sidelines of the 2+2 dialogue.
What is 2+2 dialogue?
- 2+2 dialogue was agreed between India and U.S. during the visit of PM Narenda Modi to US in June, 2017.
- It is like 2+2 dialogue format between defence and foreign secretaries and ministers of India and Japan.
- 2+2 dialogue replaces original India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue.
- It seeks to improve strategic cooperation between both countries and preserving peace and stability in Indo-pacific region.
- It places strategic, defence and security relationship between two countries at the centre stage.
What are the key outcomes?
- The 2+2 dialogue has seen the effective convergence on strategic and security issues.
- COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Arrangement) agreement was signed.
- Establishment of a hotline between defence minister and external affairs minister with their American counterparts.
- They also decided to carry out tri-service joint exercise in 2019, off the eastern coast of India.
- It cited the need for working towards the Indo-pacific which is free and open.
- Both countries restated their shared ideologies for the region and declared to initiate exchanges between U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy for strengthening maritime cooperation in the western Indian Ocean.
What is COMCASA?
- COMCASA is a pact signed to provide a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the U.S. to India.
- COMCASA is the India specific form of CISMOA (Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement).
- CISMOA is one of the 4 basic agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners for enabling interoperability between militaries and sale of high-end technology.
- Of the 4 agreements,
- In 2002, India ratified GSOMIA (General Security of Military Information Agreement)
- In 2016, LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement)
- In 2018, CISMOA (COMCASA)
- The remaining one yet to be signed is the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation).
- For surveillance purposes, Indian armed forces are presently dependent on less secure and commercially available communication systems.
- This impacts real-time data transfer with friendly militaries and continuous interoperability during joint missions.
- Thus COMCOSA will facilitate Indian military to utilize high-end secured communication equipment from the U.S.
- Moreover, COMCASA is important if India is to get the armed version of the Sea Guardian drones from the U.S.
Importance of COMCASA
- COMCASA would enable access to advanced defense systems and facilitate India to effectively utilize its current the United States origin platforms.
- The pact will improve India’s defense capability and preparedness.
- It will facilitate greater communications interoperability between the militaries of India and the U.S.
- It will enable India to access secured US communications equipment which effectively connects ground, air, surface and subsurface assets for getting a common tactical picture. This equipment, for example, could permit India to get real-time data on the presence of Chinese warships submarines and aircraft in the Indian Ocean.
- Clauses are available in COMCASA which stipulates that the data got through such systems cannot be revealed or transferred to any person or entity without India’s permission.
- COMCASA could also decrease the chances of the U.S. enforcing sanctions on India for buying Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.
What are the Concerns with COMCASA?
- COMCASA may negatively impact India regarding its military decisions and policy and subsequently affect its sovereignty.
- Even though it has provisions for not revealing the information without India’s consent, there is still issue about giving the U.S. access to Indian military communication system and in consequence, compromise India’s defense secrecy.
- US military may breach India’s strategic areas like the nuclear command.
- It would impede India’s geopolitical and strategic relations with other countries such as Russia and Iran.
- It may hamper our high technology deals with Russia like SU-30MKI combat aircraft.
- Several Russian-origin and indigenous Indian military communication platform may not be suitable with COMCASA.
- These kind of complex arrangement are politically risky for the ruling government since even the early LEMOA (signed in 2016) caused a political issue in the country.
Concerns with 2+2 dialogue
- The complete 2+2 dialogue focussed on the threat posed by China and the necessity to stop Chinese aggression.
- However, Pakistan is the closer and immediate threat for India. Pakistan’s threat to develop new short-range nuclear capable weapon system is a real danger. But none of this concerns falls under the consideration of the United States.
- No talks about the U.S. current war on trade deficits and imposition of import duties affecting Indian business.
- India did not get any promise on waivers on steel and aluminium tariffs enforced by Washington.
- There is no statement on what the U.S. will do on India’s Chabahar port investment when it’s full sanctions on Iran starts.
- India’s leaning towards U.S. comes at a time when the world thinks the United States as a declining power.
- Any counter actions by Russia like looking for Pakistan as a market for its defence items, will affect India’s further.
Both U.S. and India must work together to get India an entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). India must ensure that the benefits of 2+2 dialogue does not benefit only the other side. Further, signing the COMCASA with the U.S. is a good step considering the increasing threats of China and Pakistan in the region. But the government must also resolve the concerns regarding the sovereignty issues and uphold good relations with its long-term friend Russia for great prospects in the long run.