The Indo-Pacific Region, Afghanistan, interoperability, growing Chinese presence, pending defense deals and wide range of regional and multilateral issues are topping the agenda of the meeting between the new US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Plans for Saturday
According to sources in the Ministry of Defence, “Accompanied by a high level official delegation is arriving later tonight (Friday 19, 2021) and his official engagements will start early tomorrow morning with wreath laying at National war Memorial.”
“This will be followed by Tri Service Guard of Honour , before he starts his meetings for the day. The first meeting is going to be with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh, and as reported earlier, he is expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi later on Saturday. Meetings with the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar are also on the cards,” the source added.
The Indian delegation led by Rajnath Singh will have senior defense ministry officials including the Defense Secretary Ajay Kumar. Also present at the delegation level talks will be Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Army chief Gen MM Naravane, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh, and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria.
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What is the US keen on?
Besides finalizing some pending deals, the US side is keen on consolidating the assets of like minded countries in the Indo-Pacific Region to deal with the growing Chinese threats. “The US is also keen on having India as a preferred partner in the Indo-Pacific region and a country which can play a lead role in sharing responsibility in the region,” said the source.
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Since the visit comes close on the heels of the first-ever Quad summit, the interoperability among the assets of the Quad members is very important.
Expert View by a Strategic Analyst and C4I expert:
“For the joint operations of the QUAD or QUAD+ forces, interoperability is the key feature required to be implemented,” says Milind Kulshreshtha Strategic Analyst and C4I expert.
“The lead role for this needs to be taken by the US, being the major OEM for the military equipment used by the alliance forces. The members who are already part of the NATO alliance have a seamless flow of tactical information well established, however, other nations like India, which majorly operates multiple Russian origin equipment, requires the interface protocols to be defined. For example, today India operates some of the latest US manufactured products like AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, P-8I maritime Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) aircrafts and C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift military aircraft,” he explains.
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As per the US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership plan through military cooperation, information sharing and defense trade and achieving Joint service synchronization, more equipment like Naval MH-60R Seahawks etc. are on the anvil to be supplied to India. “Even though these US equipment are supplied to India by US, the various key sub-systems like Tactical Data Link (Link-16) communication system are not part of the supply.Link-16/Link-11 equipment are located on ground units, sea based assets and airborne platforms for NATO countries to effectively generate and share a Common Operational Picture for planning and force deployment.”
According to Mr Kulshreshtha, “In today’s military operations, including exercises, India requires to have critical data exchange with other forces for any purposeful Indo-Pacific cooperation with like minded nations with an intent to limit the growing influence of China as a super-power. Hence, it is a must that a close partnership with other patrol units exists such that the common information architectures designed should be interoperable with partner nations’ equipment to maximize effectiveness on the battlefield.”
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“COMCASA Agreement is meant to support exploitation of coalition’s land, sea and air military assets with the US supplied Indian owned defense equipment. This shall provide the true effective joint operations involving land units, aircrafts and ships during exercises like Malabar-2021. This feature requires an interoperability at the tactical level i.e. information interchange amongst war-fighting units on a near-Real-Time basis over a common network. This tactical data is updated continuously and automatically by each of the Net Units (or the network nodes),” he explains.
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According to the C4I expert “The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geo-Spatial Cooperation to GEOINT (Geospatial Intelligence) information exchange shall form an important aspect of the desired interoperability with US led forces. The GEOINT for identification of geographic location and other features on Earth shall assist in accurate Target Designation and Target tracking feature which is an essential feature for joint operations. The BECA implementation shall be a radical change for India’s own Survey of India systems, with WGS84 master Datum itself being corrected for Geo-information generation so as to overcome the gaps in the local GEOINT system. The BECA is critical for modern war-fighting techniques like Multi-platform Multi-sensor Data Fusion (MPMSDF) to accurate Situational Awareness”.
In his opinion “An open architecture framework shall enable new and varied applications to be integrated to support the joint operations concept. However, the foundation of this concept shall evolve from the OEM supplier himself viz. the US equipment suppliers like Boeing, Lockheed Martin etc. within their Service-oriented Architecture. This may start from intelligence gathering tools like aerial observations, electronic warfare systems and cyber domain and commence with ground based integrated signals collation and analysis Center jointly established in India.”
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Interim National Security Strategic Guidance of the US
This document released by the Biden administration released in the first week of March calls for further deepening of ties with India. The document has identified China as an “increasingly assertive” China and “destabilizing” Russia as the main adversaries confronting the US. However it has in the document made it clear that the former was more consequential of the two.