India is expected to raise its concerns about an important military pact being negotiated with the United States and seek assurance that the communication equipment supplied by the Americans under the deal would remain with it forever and not taken back or rendered useless by them in case the ties between the two nations are affected.

Senior government sources told MyNation that the issue related to the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), a bilateral pact planned between the two countries for secure military communications, is expected to be discussed during a meeting between the Defence and External Affairs Ministers of the two countries in the 2+2 dialogue to be held in India on September 6.

“There is a concern over the fate of the equipment supplied by the Americans under the deal if the relations between the two sides are not good as they have the capability to tweak the software and render it useless for us. We want an assurance that the equipment should remain with us forever. The issue will be discussed during the high-level meeting between the ministers,” a senior government sources told this correspondent.

The issue assumes significance as there were serious concerns between the two countries over the procurement of the S-400 air defence missile system by India from Russia — as the US has laws which can impose sanctions on countries doing military business with the Russians.

However, India has been a long-term military hardware partner of Russia and, even today, more than 50% of its equipment is from that country.

On September 6, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will be attending the meeting, along with their American counterparts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis.
Government sources also insisted that the American communication equipment are necessary for the Indian forces as there is a possibility of external forces’ interference — like taking over an in-flight Indian drone and using it against Indian interests.

“Such a possibility can be removed if we have the American communication equipment, which is safe, secure and encrypted,” a source said.

However, there are also concerns about the Americans listening to the communication of the Indian military systems equipped with their systems.

COMCASA is meant to provide a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India that would facilitate “interoperability” between their forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secured data links. American officials contend that COMCASA will facilitate the use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India and fully exploit their potential.

COMCASA is part of a set of three military agreements that the US considers “foundational” for a functional military relationship. In August 2016, India had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases. Negotiations on the third agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA), have not yet begun.