‘India-US Relations’: India reluctant to open up army communications to Washington because of Pakistan

India reluctant to open up military communications to

Washington because of Pakistan


(Pakistan Press  Club)

NEW DELHI: Military officials in New Delhi said that India is reluctant to sign Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) with the United States because of its concern that Washington can listen in on military operations where both countries’ interests may not coincide— such as against arch-rival Pakistan.


The agreement is part of the Trump administration’s new policy towards India which called for a “free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific”.


Describing the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a “single strategic arena”, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described India and the United States as regional “bookends”.


Captain Gurpreet Khurana, executive director at the government-funded National Maritime Foundation, told Reuters that India’s underlying concern was having its autonomy constrained by binding its military into US codes and operating procedures.

‘India-US Relations, Pakistan

‘India-US Relations’: India reluctant to open up army communications to Washington because of Pakistan

Once, the Americans proposed a portable “suitcase” communications system called the CENTRIXS which could transmit full situational awareness data to Indian ships while the two navies practised together. India refused to allow it to be plugged in for the duration of the exercise, citing operational security, according to an Indian source briefed on the planning of the exercises.


Even the joint air exercises that the two countries are conducting as a follow-on to Malabar are severely restricted, the source said.


India sends its Russian-acquired Sukhoi jets to the drills, but their radars and jammers are turned off.


David Shear, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asia under President Barack Obama, said US forces, particularly the Navy, were well aware of the interoperability constraints to interacting with India.


“They understand what the obstacles are and that this is going to be a long-term project,” he said.



LSA, CISMOA, BECA and the Future of the US-India Defense Partnership


Three fairly modest defense cooperation agreements will set up a foundation for the future trajectory of U.S.-India defense ties.


CISMOA, meanwhile, would allow the United States to supply India with its proprietary encrypted communications equipment and systems, allowing secure peacetime and wartime communication between high-level military leaders on both sides. CISMOA would extend this capability to Indian and U.S. military assets, including aircraft and ships. Finally, BECA would set a framework through which the United States could share sensitive data to aid targeting and navigation with India.


There’s clear momentum in U.S.-India defense ties in the Obama administration’s final year. Last year’s renewal of the U.S.-India defense framework for another decade, combined with continued technology cooperation under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), has invigorated bilateral defense cooperation. Carter, in December, described the U.S.-India defense partnership as an “anchor of global security.” Moreover, as I discussed recently, the United States is increasingly taking the lead in this dance, asking New Delhi to move faster on some issues than it may be comfortable, such as joint patrols in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.


India has already agreed to the these three agreements “in principle,” but the alphabet soup of LSA, CISMOA, and BECA has spurred much debate in New Delhi, bringing up familiar arguments that have prevented U.S.-India military convergence in the past. For instance, anxieties persist in New Delhi that signing these agreements could erode India’s military independence; erode its historically close security relationship with Russia, jeopardizing ongoing projects; antagonize China, leaving India in a disadvantageous position vis-a-vis its border disputes with Beijing; and, in the case of CISMOA, allow the United States undue insight into Indian operational practices.


From the perspective of the United States, apart from the modest technical benefits of closer cooperation with New Delhi, these agreements are largely about building a foundation of trust. In this way, they are similar to the 2002 General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which, according to then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “[paved] the way for greater technology cooperation” between the two sides. Like GSOMIA, which ultimately enabled the Obama administration-era DTTI, LSA, CISMOA, and BECA would open new doors for the United States and India down the line.


Defense cooperation between India and the United States has long been bounded by New Delhi’s apprehension about Washington’s intentions and LSA, CISMOA, and BECA would signal the start of a new era, coinciding with the recently updated U.S.-India defense framework. These agreements might not be concluded during Carter’s visit to India next week, but they’ll remain at the top of his agenda and of the U.S.-India defense agenda until they’re signed—or set aside in an acknowledgment of the enduring limits to this bilateral.

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