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Foreign Policy

US and India Signed Defense Information Sharing Agreement

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman wave to reporters, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6. The leaders are meeting for the first ever U.S.-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue in which they are affirming their commitment to enhancing the U.S.-India relationship.

The U.S. and India signed an important defense information sharing agreement Wednesday that will enable each country greater use of each other’s communications networks, but may not come to a partnership on India’s planned purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

Mattis and Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, or COMCASA, which in practical terms will improve information network access and sharing to ensure later on weapons acquisition, secure communications links common in U.S. weapons systems, such as Link 16 in U.S. jets, might be included. Until now, those tactical communications capabilities weren’t incorporated into India’s major weapons purchases.

The two sides also decided to enhanced defense cooperation, to add joint exercises on India’s coast in 2019 and also the establishment of a hotline involving the U.S. and India.

Mattis and Sitharaman then joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and India’s minister of foreign affairs Sushma Swaraj to address Indian and U.S. media. The defense and diplomatic leaders said the agreements were the latest sign of your strengthened U.S.-India relationship, recently underscored through the U.S. renaming Pacific Command to Indo-Pacific Command.

But both sides did not arrived at an answer on one with the higher-visibility issues between the two sides, India’s planned acquiring five S-400 systems, in a very deal worth around $6 billion.

“There’s been no decision made,” Pompeo told reporters Wednesday following your agreement was signed.

But Pompeo appeared to suggest a waiver is achievable.

“We do understand a history of India’s relationship with Russia and legacy systems. Our effort here, too, is not to penalize great strategic partners like India, an important defense partner,” Pompeo said. “The sanctions aren’t meant to adversely impact countries like India. They are designed to … influence the sanctioned country, that’s Russia. And so we’ll work our way over the waiver decision since the days and weeks proceed, and we’ll do this alongside our partner India.”

COMCASA is one kind of four “foundational” agreements that plan to increase interoperability involving the two militaries. It follows India’s signing from the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement in 2016 with former Defense Secretary Ash Carter. That agreement set terms for greater logistics support during port calls and exercises.

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