Indo-US Communications Compatibility And Security Agreement: Implications For Pakistan By Sonia Naz

The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) was signed after the US Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met the Indian Foreign and Defence Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman respectively on September 6,to protect the military communication. According to the US, it is a foundational agreement and a major step forward because it permits the US to transport its sensitive and high-tech equipment such as armed surveillance drones to India. It also binds both states into a military alliance. Generally, the US signs these types of agreements with NATO allies. In 2016, the then US President Obama gave the status of “Major Defence Partner,” to India and on 30 July, 2018 Trump government gave the status of Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) to India.
There are multiple reasons which are driving the US towards India. First, according to senior experts, India’s defence market is attractive for the US and it wants to seize the entire Indian market. With the US $15billion of arms deal in the past decade, India emerged as the second largest arms importer from the US. Second, the US wants more a vigorous trade partnership with India, to counter Indo-Russia trade volume. Third, through these surveillance drones the US wants to monitor China in the Indian Ocean. While China and India have more than US $100 billion trade and China would like to believe that it does not face any threat from India, the growing cooperation between India and the US proves otherwise. This cooperation is boosting the Indian Military Industrial Complex while enhancing its military and nuclear capabilities at the same time.
The US is supporting India on every platform; recently, Washington stated that it would advocate for Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group despite China’s veto
While the Indo-US partnership is growing rapidly, Pak-US relations are simultaneously deteriorating. On the other hand, Russia also feels wary of the emerging cooperation between India and the US. This is one of the reasons, bringing Pakistan and Russia closer as both states provide each other with the best alternative options. Islamabad purchased high tech Mi-35m helicopters from Russia and is also interested in purchasing more fighter jets from Russia.
Indian experts believe that COMCASA would reduce the chances of US reservations against India buying S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia. While, the US is not particularly comfortable with India’s military purchases from Russia, this issue was not discussed in the recent meeting. However, Pompeo told the reporters that the US would not punish India for its proposed purchase. India is looking forward to purchasing Patriot-3 PAC from the US and it is quite evident that combing both US and Russian technologies would disturb the stability of the South Asian region.
Hence, Indo-US military cooperation will increase the arms race in the region, especially disturbing the delicate equilibrium between Pakistan and India. Nevertheless, Pakistan is not protesting unlike India against any deal between the US and New Delhi. For example, Larry Pressler states in his book “Neighbours in Arms” that when the US Defence Department was approving a sale of eight F-16 to Pakistan in 2016, India started protesting against it. India’s leaders also projected that these jets would be used against them. Pakistan is not complaining but the growing strategic partnership between India and the US is pushing it towards Russia and China.
The US is supporting India on every platform; recently, Washington stated that it would advocate for Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) despite China’s veto. On the other hand Russia has expressed desire to enhance, trade of military equipment with Pakistan. Nonetheless, Russia is cautiously warming up to Pakistan. Lastly, it is to be realised by both India and the US, that their partnership would not only increase the arms race between two rivals destabilising the region, but would also make them move away from their traditional allies. Consequently, Pakistan should think about new strategic partnerships with Russia to avoid any imminent risks.
The writer is a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad. She can be reached at
Published in Daily Times, September 28th 2018.

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