Industrial Security Annex opens Indian private partnerships for U.S. defence firms

India, U.S. review operationalisation of COMCASA at 2+2.

December 19, 2019 07:34 am | Updated November 28, 2021 10:55 am IST - Washington

Boosting ties: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with their U.S. counterparts Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo.

Boosting ties: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with their U.S. counterparts Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo.

The Industrial Security Annex (ISA), signed between India and the U.S. at the second 2+2 dialogue in Washington, will open the door for U.S. defence companies to partner with the Indian private sector for several multi-billion dollar deals in the pipeline, especially the deal for 114 fighter jets. The two sides also took stock of the steps being taken to operationalise the foundational agreement, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA).

With this, three of four foundational agreements are through. The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) is still under negotiation as both sides try to iron out few reciprocal issues.

“We hope that this [ISA] will enable smooth transfer of classified technology and information between private entities of the U.S. and India,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said at a press conference after the talks.

US Secretary of Defence Mark Thomas Esper stated that the ISA would “facilitate collaboration between our defense industries by supporting the secure transfer of key information and technology.” 

The ISA is a part of the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which India signed with the U.S. long back. It became critical as India opened up the defence sector to the private sector and the Strategic Partnership policy, which has few big military platforms and is reserved for the Indian private sector. U.S. companies are in the race for multi-billion dollar deal for 114 fighter jets, among other deals. 

“The IAF and Navy fighter competitions are a once in a generation opportunity. We are offering some of the best technology widely employed by the U.S. Navy and Air Force, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the bespoke F-21,” said Joel Starr, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, US State Department, at a conference in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

After decade-long negotiations, India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA) in 2016 and third agreement COMCASA last year.

Mr. Rajnath Singh also highlighted the operationbalisation of COMCASA and the deepening maritime cooperation as a result. “Our Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) cooperation has been extremely useful. We have sent an invitation to the U.S. to nominate a liaison officer for the international fusion center in India,” he said.

The Indian Navy has invited friendly foreign nations to post liaison officers at the Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) that was set up last year. 

Mr. Singh stated that one of the major movements over the last year has been steps to operationalise the COMCASA enabling most of the U.S.-origin platforms with “secure communication capability.”

Mr. Singh said they had been holding regular meetings for this and taking necessary steps to open the COMSEC account. “This will be discussed in the Military Cooperation Group (MCG) format, including our agreement to explore cooperation in defence-space and defence-cyber and special forces,” he added.

Defence officials said the account of $5 mn, from which any deductions would be done for services or information sought from the U.S. under the COMCASA hasd been created and work was on to develop a tactical data link. Sealink Advanced Analysis (S2A) is to be set up to analyse large volumes of data that is received as part of the MDA. The S2A is being co-developed by India and the U.S. for big data analytics, an official said.

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