2+2 Dialogue: India-US sign historic COMCASA agreement
India and the United States signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) during their first-ever ‘two plus two’ dialogue, which was held in New Delhi on September 6, 2018.
The key agreement will open up the way for the sale of more sensitive US military equipment to India. It will help India obtain critical and encrypted defence technologies for the Indian defence platforms from the US.
The high-level talks were held between the foreign and defence ministries of the two nations. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hosted the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis for the inaugural dialogue.
Joint Statement: Key Highlights
Defence and Security
• The Ministers reaffirmed the strategic importance of India’s designation as a Major Defense Partner (MDP) of the United States and committed to expand the scope of India’s MDP status and take mutually agreed upon steps to strengthen defence ties further and promote better defence and security coordination and cooperation.
• The Ministers also noted the rapid growth in bilateral defence trade and the qualitative improvement in levels of technology and equipment offered by the United States to India in recent years.
• They welcomed the inclusion of India by the United States among the top tier of countries entitled to license-free exports, re-exports, and transfers under License Exception Strategic Trade Authorisation (STA-1) and also committed to explore other means to support further expansion in two-way trade in defence items and defence manufacturing supply chain linkages.
• The Ministers welcomed the signing of a Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that will facilitate access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilise its existing U.S.-origin platforms.
• The Ministers also announced their readiness to begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration.
• The two sides also committed to the creation of a new, tri-services exercise and to further increase personnel exchanges between the two militaries and defence organisations.
• The Ministers further reviewed the recent growth of bilateral engagements in support of maritime security and maritime domain awareness and committed to expand cooperation.
• The Ministers also committed to start exchanges between the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy, underscoring the importance of deepening their maritime cooperation in the western Indian Ocean.
• They further reaffirmed their commitment to continue to encourage and prioritise co-production and co-development projects through the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) and to pursue other avenues of defense innovation cooperation.
• They then welcomed the conclusion of a Memorandum of Intent between the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Indian Defence Innovation Organization – Innovation for Defence Excellence (DIO-iDEX).
• The Ministers announced their intent to increase information-sharing efforts on known or suspected terrorists and to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2396 on returning foreign terrorist fighters.
• They committed to enhance their ongoing cooperation in multilateral forums such as the UN and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
• They reaffirmed their support for a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism.
• They further denounced any use of terrorist proxies in the region, and in this context, they called on Pakistan to ensure that the territory under its control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.
• On the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attack, they called on Pakistan to bring to justice expeditiously the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri, and other cross-border terrorist attacks.
• The Ministers welcomed the launch of a bilateral dialogue on designation of terrorists in 2017, which is strengthening cooperation and action against terrorist groups, including Al-Qaida, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, D-Company, and their affiliates.
• The two sides further reaffirmed their commitment to ongoing and future cooperation to ensure a stable cyberspace environment and to prevent cyber-attacks.
• The Ministers reviewed cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and noted that the common principles for the region articulated in the India-U.S. Joint Statement of June 2017 have been further amplified by President Donald Trump at Danang, Vietnam on November 10, 2017, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue on June 1, 2018.
• Both sides committed to work together and in concert with other partners toward advancing a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, based on recognition of ASEAN centrality and on respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law, good governance, free and fair trade, and freedom of navigation and overflight.
• Noting the importance of infrastructure and connectivity for the Indo-Pacific region, both sides emphasised on the need to work collectively with other partner countries to support transparent, responsible and sustainable debt financing practices in infrastructure development.
• The Ministers reaffirmed their shared commitment to a united, sovereign, democratic, inclusive, stable, prosperous, and peaceful Afghanistan.
• The two sides expressed support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.
• The United States acknowledged India’s longstanding and ongoing contributions of economic assistance to Afghanistan and also welcomed India’s enhanced role in Afghanistan’s development and stabilisation.
India welcomed the recent U.S.-North Korea summit and the two sides pledged to work together to counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and to hold accountable those countries that have supported them.
India’s bid to join NSG
The United States welcomed India’s accession to the Australia Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Missile Technology Control Regime and reiterated its full support for India’s immediate accession to the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
• The Ministers recognised the importance and the potential for increasing bilateral trade, investment, innovation, and job creation in both countries.
• Both sides committed to further expanding and balancing the trade and economic partnership consistent with their leaders’ 2017 joint statement, including by facilitating trade, improving market access and addressing issues of interest to both sides.
• In this regard, both sides welcomed the ongoing exchanges between the Ministry of Commerce of India and the Office of the United States Trade Representative and hoped for mutually acceptable outcomes.
India and the US both look forward to full implementation of the civil nuclear energy partnership and collaboration between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company for the establishment of six nuclear power plants in India.
Observing the strong ties of family, education, business and the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that unite their people, the Ministers highlighted the unmatched people-to-people ties between their countries and recognised the benefits to both nations and the world from these ties, including the free flow of ideas and collaboration in health, space, oceans, and other areas of science and technology.
The next 2+2 meeting is scheduled to be held in the United States in 2019.
The 2+2 talks were agreed upon by US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting in June 2017. However, since then they were postponed twice, first in April this year and then in July.
From the last quarter of 2017, the dialogue was pushed to April 18-19, 2018 in Washington but it had to be postponed because the then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked to quit by President Trump in March 2018 and Pompeo had not been confirmed to the post.
The talks were re-scheduled for July 2018 but then were postponed again by the US due to unavoidable reasons. The postponement came in the backdrop of growing differences between India and the U.S. over the Iran nuclear deal.
The bilateral ties between India and the US have been slightly stressed this year due to US sanctions on Russia and Iran. India’s relations with both these nations are age-old. India relies heavily on Iranian crude oil despite cutting the volume of purchase.
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