U.S., India agree on defense communications cooperation pact

The U.S. and India signed a military communications agreement Thursday during a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, cementing defense arrangements meant to counter China.

India is purchasing several squadrons of the Apache helicopter in an effort to upgrade its fleet, one of several purchases it has agreed to with the United States in recent years. Photo by Charles Rosemond/U.S. Army
India is purchasing several squadrons of the Apache helicopter in an effort to upgrade its fleet, one of several purchases it has agreed to with the United States in recent years. Photo by Charles Rosemond/U.S. Army

The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, signed Thursday by Mattis and India’s defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is part of a framework used for favored nations concerning military supply.

The agreement falls under negotiations that have taken place for more than a decade. It will give U.S. communication systems to India and allow real-time encrypted transmissions between compatible U.S. and Indian ships and aircraft.

The U.S. is India’s second-largest arms supplier, and both nations have increased regional cooperation to counter China’s military build-up. India was slow toward the agreement due to concerns that it would give the U.S. access to military communications.

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Sitharaman said that the “signing of Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement will enable India to access advanced technologies from USA,” during the conference. She emphasized that the agreement would lead to closer cooperation with the U.S. on defense matters.

The United States has increased its arms sales to India by 500 percent over the last five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and is looking to further grow the U.S. arms sales to the country. Russia supplies most of India’s military equipment, with Israel coming in third after the United States.

India has been accelerating it’s military purchases. SIPRI says they have accounted for 12 percent of global arms imports over the last five years. They have also been attempting to bolster their domestic arms supply chain.

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In the last year, Lockheed Martin and Indian industrial firm Tata have agreed to produce parts and other necessities for the F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70, though India has not made a decision on purchases of either the F-16 or F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter planes as of now. The Saab Gripen fighter jet from Sweden is also under consideration.

India is already beginning to replace it’s legacy fleet of Russian helicopters with U.S. aircraft such as the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.

ByStephen Carlson