What is COMCASA Agreement and it's Importance for India ?

What is COMCASA ( Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement ) ?

  • COMCASA is one of the three foundational agreements (Other two agreements are Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and BECA.) that guide US high technology cooperation in defence sector with other countries.
  • It was earlier called Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) before name was changed to reflect its India-specific nature.
  • COMCASA is meant to facilitate use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India by US to fully exploit their potential.
  • It essentially provides legal framework for transfer of communication security equipment from US to India that will facilitate interoperability (Interoperability in this case means that there will be access to encrypted and secret technologies or communications.) between armed forces of both countries and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.

Significance of COMCASA:

  • It will enable Indian military to get a better picture of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) which is seeing increasing Chinese movements.
  • With COMCASA, Indian armed forces will get to fully exploit the capability of the military platforms procured from the US. For instance, the P-8I reconnaissance aircraft of the Navy which have emerged as a major force multiplier are currently operating at limited capacity.
  • As a consequence of COMCASA, India will get access to Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System, or CENTRIXS, which is the secure communication system network of the US.
    What is COMCASA Agreement and it's Importance for India 
  • Navy ships with CENTRIXS on board can communicate securely with the U.S. Navy when needed and can benefit from the wider situational picture of the region as they have a large number of ships and aircraft deployed. This will reduce the stress on the assets and allow prioritising the deployments more efficiently.
  • CENTRIXS consists of a collection of coalition wide area networks (WAN) known as enclaves” and is a “great enabler, allowing ship-to-ship operational dialogue between the two nations in text and web-based formats.

India’s stand on COMCASA:

  • India is currently dependent on commercially available and less secure communication systems on high-end US defence platforms like C-130Js and P8I maritime surveillance aircraft.
  • After initial reluctance of government and reservation of defence ministry, India has signed COMCASA.
  • The agreement will give Indian military access to function on high-end secured and encrypted communication equipment which are installed on American platforms obtained by Indian Armed Forces. These platforms include C-130 J, C-17, P-8I aircraft, and Apache and Chinook helicopters.
  • The agreement was pending for almost ten years. One of the major reasons for this was the fear that India may compromise its operational independence.
  • Critics had also pointed out that the agreement could jeopardise India’s established military ties with Russia and access to their weapons systems.
  • These agreements and Donald Trump administration’s decision to give India STA-1 status (Strategic Trade Authorization-1) shows the country’s importance in the US strategic calculus.

COMCASA Agreement - Importance for India

  • The Comcasa provides the legal framework for the US to part with its sensitive communication equipment and codes to enable transfer of realtime operational information. This equipment is largely used for ground-to-air communication, on installed US-origin military aircraft, to enable best battle situation awareness. 
  • The US data link is considered the most secure communication platform, which will also allow India access to big data base of American intelligence, including real-time imagery. 
  • The Comcasa will allow both sides to operate on the same communication systems, enabling an “interoperable” environment for militaries. 
  • India has already signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US. With the singing of COMCASA, India has gone one more step ahead in strengthening India-US military ties. LEMOA, COMCASA and BECA, or Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation, are the three foundational defence pacts that a country needs to sign to obtain cutting-edge weapons and communications systems from the US. India hopes to move ahead on BECA too in near future. 
  • COMCASA will also help India obtain the armed version of the Sea Guardian drones. The US could not part with the weapon systems on the drone without COMCASA which will now allow installation of data and communication systems. 
  • COMCASA will effectively mean India sharing the real-time American intelligence on military deployments by China and Pakistan. 
  • Without this agreement, the US cannot part with highly coded communication equipment with the military platforms they sell to India. India has to depend on commercially available less secure systems on, otherwise, high-end platforms like C-130Js and the P8I maritime surveillance aircraft, among others. COMCASA will change that. Now the US government will be able to give the go-ahead to install the best communication equipment on relevant platforms such as aircraft being sold to India. 

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