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India-US military communications agreement: Issues still remain

By Shubham

New Delhi, Aug 1: After a couple of unsuccessful initiatives, top representatives from India and the US are finally set to meet over the '2+2' meeting in New Delhi on September 6 where they aim to make an announcement about the signing of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). However, according to a report in The Indian Express, there are five major big issues that the two sides are trying to negotiate on.

India-US military communications agreement: Issues still remain

TIE cited sources to say that a team of American officials from Indo-Pacific Command, Hawaii, will be in the national capital on August 6 and 7 to make the final negotiations on the agreement's text. The Indian side will be represented by officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence and the armed forces, the report added.

Till now, the negotiations have proceeded fast after India expressed its willingness to ink the pact which aims to lay down a legal framework for transferring communication security equipment from the US to India to help "interoperability" between the armed forces of the two nations, the report said.

However, as sources said, the biggest hindrance on the way of the negotiations is India's demand for a clause which clearly prioritises India's sovereign law over COMCASA. India believes that such a clause was part of the India-US nuclear deal which was made by the former Manmohan Singh government and if Washington could give such concessions then, it can do the same now as well.

Besides the question of sovereignty, India also seeks three other assurances in the text of the pact.

First, it wants assurance that the US will not use its access to the military communications system for spying purposes; second, the US will not misuse control equipment since it is part of proprietary American network that can be used by the US military against India and thirdly, the US government will not switch the entire equipment off or shut India's military network as part of a policy decision, TIE report added.

The US said that if a new government in New Delhi passes a 'sovereign' law which overrides COMCASA later, it defeats the very purpose of signing the pact, the report said, citing him further that the Indian government can cancel the COMCASA after serving a notice, besides having the option to amend it at any stage.

On giving the assurances, the US side said that the person who will sign the agreement - a senior military official - doesn't have the authority to do so and they have to come from a political authority.

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