CUTS Washington Monthly Brief
#21, December 2019
A historic opportunity for Indo-U.S. defence trade and security partnership
The outcome of the first two Indo-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogues has been remarkably progressive. It marks horizontal and vertical expansion of defence trade and security partnership between the two great democracies.

Let us compare the gap between enabling agreements that the U.S. had signed with India to facilitate operational interoperability and sale of high end technology. The first two agreements viz. General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) were signed in 2002 and 2016, respectively.

On the other hand, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) were signed back to back in 2018 and 2019. The ISA was signed at the Second 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue which was held on December 18, 2019. Though the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) which is aimed at enabling greater exchange of geospatial information was also expected to be signed, the respective leaders reaffirmed to take it further when they meet again in 2020.

Nonetheless, COMCASA has paved the way for increased interoperability and flow of high end defence technology between the two countries.  As a matter of fact, the bilateral security partnership has trickled down to a granular level. From Malabar naval exercise to the establishment of new tri-services, amphibious exercise, Tiger Triumph is an indication of the same.  Also, it is estimated to support US$15bn of defence sales to India from near zero in 2008.

The ISA will enable exchange of classified military information between Indian and the U.S. defence industries. Its implementation will be a milestone in furthering bilateral defence innovation cooperation, including under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). Not only will this enable co-creation and co-production opportunities but will also provide an opportunity for U.S. firms to incubate and accelerate the growth of defence and aerospace startups in India. Furthermore, it will also help boost India’s flagship ‘Make in India’ programme.

Overall, these developments now present a historical opportunity for both the countries to integrate and consolidate their defence industrial bases. It also enables the U.S. to help India indigenise defence production besides helping India emerge as a regional security provider, particularly in the Indian Ocean and in the Indo-Pacific region.

A very Happy and a Prosperous New Year to all!
Pradeep S. Mehta

P. S. During the Indian leg of ‘Fostering Indo-US Innovation Cooperation for Mutual Prosperity’ programme organised by CUTS International in partnership with U.S. India Business Council on December 03, 2019 in New Delhi, the participants unanimously agreed, among others, on the need of expanding Indo-U.S. defence innovation cooperation.

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