India, US ink critical Defence pact

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Sep 2018 08:19:00




The two countries hold their first 2+2 dialogue during which they also discussed key issues, including cross-border terrorism, India’s NSG bid and contentious H1B visa issue

India and US decide to set up hotlines between their Defence and Foreign Ministers

India deliberates US on thorny issues such as India’s purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia and import of crude oil from Iran

The two countries to hold first tri-services exercise next year

REFLECTING growing congruence in ties, India and US on Thursday signed a landmark security pact, decided to set up hotlines between their Defence and Foreign Ministers and deliberated on thorny issues such as India’s purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia and import of crude oil from Iran. In the first edition of the two-plus-two talks, the two sides also discussed cross-border terrorism, India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the contentious H1B visa issue, and ways to deepen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

These key strategic issues came up during talks External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had with US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis here.
Recognising their rapidly growing military-to-military ties, the two sides also decided to have a new tri-services exercise as well as further expand scope of jointly developing military platforms and equipment, a joint statement said. The first tri-services -Army, Navy and Air Force- exercise will take place next year.

“We fully support India’s rise as a leading global power, and we welcome India’s equal commitment to our partnership,” Secretary Pompeo said at a joint media briefing with Swaraj, Mattis and Sitharaman.Officials said the ‘Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement’ (COMCASA) will allow India to receive high-end military communications equipment from the US and will also ensure exchanges of real-time encrypted information on platforms used by Indian armed forces from the US military networks.

They said the provision of the pact came into effect immediately and it will be valid for next 10 years. The pact was long-pending due to apprehensions in India that provisions of the pact may allow the US to keep an eye on the India’s military platforms as they will be connected through the American communication network. During the talks, India has conveyed to the US about its reliance on the Iranian crude oil to meet the country’s energy requirement to which the US side conveyed that it will help it deal with the situation and that both sides will remain engaged on the issue, sources said.

The US has asked all countries to bring down their oil import from Iran to zero by November 4, when the sanctions will come into effect fully. Sources said on New Delhi’s plan to buy S-400 air defence missiles and other defence platforms, the US told India that it understands the decades-old Indo-Russia defence and military cooperation.
“The US delegation assured India that its ties with Russia will not impact the long term Indo-US strategic cooperation,” a source said.

The purchase of the S-400 missile system could trigger US sanctions on India as the Trump administration has imposed restrictions on military purchase from Russia.
“Freedom means that at times nations don’t agree with each other...That doesn’t mean we can’t be partners,” Mattis had told reporters ahead of his visit to India when asked about New Delhi’s plan to buy missile systems from Moscow.

Sources said India also explained strategic importance of New Delhi’s involvement in the Chabahar port project in sanction-hit Iran to the US, particularly for trade with Afghanistan and the US concurred with the view. The ports in Iran are also coming under US sanctions. Talking about cooperation in the energy sector, the joint statement said both sides resolved to full implementation of the civil nuclear energy partnership and collaboration between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and Westinghouse Electric Company for the establishment of six nuclear power plants in India. Sources said Swaraj also forcefully raised the issue of H1B visa.

“I have mentioned this to Secretary Pompeo that on the basis of the friendship which exists between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi, Indians believe that America will not work against their interest. I have mentioned him to maintain the trust of Indians,” Swaraj said at a joint media event. Referring to maritime cooperation, both the countries expressed commitment to work together and in concert with other partners toward advancing a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

In the joint statement, the two countries called on Pakistan to ensure that the territory under its control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. “On the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attack, they called on Pakistan to bring to justice expeditiously the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri, and other cross-border terrorist attacks,” the statement said.

Swaraj said President Donald Trump’s call for Pakistan to stop its policy of supporting cross-border terrorism finds resonance with India.  “We discussed the ongoing efforts by India and the United States in promoting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan Government-controlled reconciliation process, that brings together all ethnic groups and political formation in the country,” she said.