India, US to sign military communications deal

India, US to sign military communications deal

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his arrival at Palam Airforce Station in New Delhi to attend the first-ever 2+2 Dialogue between the two nations. PTI

India is likely to give its approval to a landmark military communications agreement with the United States during high-level talks on Thursday, two Indian government defence sources said, laying the ground for Washington to sell sensitive defence equipment.

A first source said the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) was discussed in a meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet committee on security on Wednesday evening, hours ahead of a meeting between the defence and foreign heads of India and the United States.

“It will be a positive development tomorrow,” the source said, declining to be named given the sensitivity of the matter. “It will definitely be reflected in the joint statement.”

A second government defence source said there was “high expectation” that the agreement would be signed on Thursday by US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The agreement has also been customised to address Indian concerns, said the second source, who had been briefed on the matter. It would only apply to equipment that India buys from the United States and not open up the rest of the Indian military to US communications networks, said the source. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Earlier this year, an Indian defence source told Reuters that New Delhi had shed its opposition to the agreement.