India to buy US defense tech under major security pact

India to buy US defense tech under major security pact

NEW DELHI: India will gain access to advanced US defense technology under a ground-breaking security deal signed in New Delhi on Thursday.

The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) also will allow New Delhi to buy advanced US military hardware, and give India access to a joint communication network linking the US and Indian armed forces. 

The agreement was signed during a meeting between the defense and foreign ministers of both countries in New Delhi.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis held joint talks with their Indian counterparts, Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman.

Sitharaman told a joint press briefing the agreement “will enhance India’s defense preparedness.” 

“Defense cooperation has emerged as the most significant dimension of our strategic partnership and as a key driver of our overall bilateral relationship,” she said.

Pompeo described the agreement as “milestone and a major step in our defense collaboration that will allow us to better protect the freedom and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.”

Swaraj and Pompeo established “a new hotline to remain in touch regularly.”

The foreign minister said the agreement would also speed up India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an organization of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials.

Foreign policy experts hailed the outcome of talks between the two countries.

“There was concern before the meeting that divergences were taking over the relationship, but the statement shows that the strategic relationship remains relevant,” said Harsh Pant, head of the strategic studies program with the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.

Pant told Arab News that the defense agreement showed both nations were looking to the long-term future.

However, he said that “China is a big elephant in the room in any discussion between New Delhi and Washington as far as the India-Pacific region is concerned.

“It’s true both countries want to manage China, but to say that they want to contain China is not true,” he said.

In the meeting on Thursday both sides also discussed the situation South Asia.

“India supports President Trump’s South Asia policy,” said Swaraj. “His call for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism finds resonance with us.

“We discussed efforts by India and the US to promote an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan government-controlled reconciliation process that brings together all ethnic groups in the country.”

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