India is likely to reopen and hold talks with the Trump administration on two defence pacts, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMSACA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA). The two pacts will be crucial in allowing India to procure top notch security communication equipment, reported TOI. India has been interested in procuring unmanned aerial vehicles Predator-B and MQ-9 Reaper for a long time now. It was also reported that with the Trump administration giving green signal to export lethal drones to India, the Ministry of Defence will now be seriously re-examining the COMCASA and BECA pacts. The Ministry will also be doing a cost-benefit analysis before inking the deal.
After easing its policy to export lethal drones to its allies, the Trump administration expressed its desire to not delay technical discussions with India. Now, India by reviewing the pacts will also show the interest to take forward deal to procure 22 sea guardian drones. In taking the deal forward, the US has also been pushing India to sign the COMCASA pact, as it believes that the pact would be a technology enabler to help export high-end avionics, intelligence and reconnaissance systems to India.
Speaking to Financial Express Online, Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur said, “It is indeed true that the defence forces need high-tech communication and surveillance equipment. India may consider signing BECA and COMCASA if these enable the defence forces to use these equipment to their full capability. The decision, however, must be a very conscious one so that our rights are protected.”
India might have signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum Agreement (LEMOA), but The United States that been trying unsuccessfully to persuade India into signing COMCASA and BECA. The two pacts continue to remain in negotiation. Though India wishes to expand its drone arsenal, it has been reluctant to sign the two pacts with the US. The reason behind is this because the officials and key stakeholders have some reservations about the US made C4ISR systems. It was reported that some officials believe that the US systems could be intrusive in India’s operational security. It was also reported that India would find it difficult to integrate the US systems to the existing Russian origin systems.
However, the Ministry of Defence will soon be examining COMCASA in detail before inking the pact. As of now, India has been managing its operations using less secure systems which are commercially available. The defence forces have also been using the C-130Js, maritime surveillance aircraft P8I Poseidon and also Boeing C-17 Globemaster-III for its operations. The decision to reopen talks with the US comes after the joint visit of Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to the US. The visit by the two bureaucrats also aimed at setting the foundation for the 2+2 dialogue between foreign and defence ministers of both the countries. However, the meeting stands stalled waiting for the confirmation from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.