COMCASA: India to get access to real-time encrypted information from US

COMCASA: India to get access to real-time encrypted information from US

The US wants to wean India off Russian systems and onto American hardware.

Before coming to India, Pompeo held talks in Islamabad with Pakistan's new government and senior most generals.

"We appreciate India's role as a stabilising force on the region's geographic frontlines".

While Pompeo termed the 'Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA)' agreement a "milestone" in the relationship, Sitharaman asserted that the pact will enhance India's defence capability and preparedness.

Once the communications accord is in place it could lead to the sale of an armed version of Guardian drones, as Washington has so far only authorised the sale of unarmed, surveillance versions of the aircraft. She also announced that India and the United States will hold their first ever joint tri-services exercises off the eastern coast of India in 2019.

"The momentum in our defense partnership has imbued a tremendous positive energy that has elevated India-U.S. relations to unprecedented heights", Sitharaman said.

These far-reaching announcements were made by the two countries in a joint statement issued at the end of the first of its kind 2+2 dialogue where External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

"We see the US-India relationship as a natural partnership between the world's two largest democracies, a partnership that is based on the convergence of enduring strategic interests and shared respect for the rules-based order", Mattis said.

Mattis said the two sides also agreed to "increase and expand our engagement in the maritime domain" with a new joint exercise on India's coast in 2019, and a hotline between the two countries.

India however is finalising a deal with Moscow to buy new systems including its S-400 long-range, surface-to-air missiles.

U.S. President Donald Trump this year ordered the reimposition of economic curbs on Iran after withdrawing his country from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.

However, a new defense bill proposes giving the US president authority to grant waivers when national security interests are at stake.

With the 2008 Mumbai attacks marking a decade this year, "we recognized the importance of justice and retribution for the masterminds behind this terrorist attack", Swaraj said, adding that India supported Trump's South Asia Policy that calls for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism.

India however is highly reliant on Iranian crude imports.

The United States is also pushing countries to halt oil imports from Iran after Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers that was meant to stall Tehran's developing nuclear capabilities.

Pompeo also clarified that in India, while issues like the effect of U.S. 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.

"Without our permission, the USA will not be able to share the details with any other country", said a source, adding the U.S. will not be able to force India to make any procurement of military hardware because of signing of the pact.

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