Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Sep 2018 11:24:02



THE signing of Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA) between India and the United States after the 2+2 dialogue has truly begun a significant new era in bilateral defence and strategic engagement between the two countries. The agreement was waiting to be signed for years and recent overtures by Mr. Donald Trump on imposing sanctions on Iran and Russia while telling allies to cut down trade with the two countries had put a big shadow on this strategic deal.

The pessimism stemmed from the fact that US had cancelled the important 2+2 dialogue between External Affairs Minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman with US Secretary of State Mr. Michael Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mr. James Mattis twice just hours before its start. COMCASA has quelled all the negativity and has elevated bilateral relations between the two nations to unprecedented heights, as hailed by Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman.

The COMCASA deal allows India a crucial access to critical American defence technologies. India is set to receive high-end military communication equipment from the US which will also help it get real-time encrypted information. This is a critical addition to India’s defence strategy and a major deterrent for the aggressive forces in the neighbourhood.

The 2+2 dialogue was frowned upon by China and its apprehension was palpable through the state-owned ‘Global Times’ which warned of growing ties between New Delhi and Washington. Though the wary China has now welcomed the dialogue, it has refused to comment on the landmark security pact. China sees Mr. Trump’s revamped Indo-Pacific strategy, which allots India a key space in defence, trade and economic sectors, a threat to its own growing strength in the region. Beijing’s adamant posturing in the South China Sea has rankled not just its neighbours but also Washington and the US’ insistence on making New Delhi a significant defence partner in the Indo-Pacific region is a regional counterweight Mr. Trump is seeking.

The COMCASA deal and India’s importance in Indo-Pacific strategy has handed New Delhi some significant gains beyond defence equipment. India now stands at a vantage point to leverage this situation for its trade relations with Iran and Russia. Making the US soften its stand on oil imports from Tehran and procurement of S-400 air defence system from Moscow is a major achievement for India’s suave diplomacy. The US has threatened sanctions on countries importing oil from Iran but making it understand India’s strategic relations with the traditional partner was a nimble-footed maneuvering India gained from the dialogue.
India’s geographical importance in the current geopolitical situation can be craftily used for many other gains including restraining Pakistan and hard-selling its interests in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that passes through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

The American hostility towards CPEC is in the open and the corridor has become a flash point in the strategic competition between Washington and Beijing. US looks all eager to scuttle the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative of Chinese premier Mr. Xi Jinping and an indication came last week when the US military cut $300 million aid to Islamabad over tacit support to terrorism. The move was a double strike against Pakistan’s new government and stalling the BRI over funds crunch.