In September 2018, the US foreign and defense secretaries signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA) as part of the so-called “2+2 Dialogue” with their Indian counterparts.
COMCASA allows India’s US-origin military platforms like C-130J Super Hercules Special Forces aircraft, Chinook helicopters, and Boeing P-81 long-range maritime patrol(LRMP) aircraft to be fitted with the state-of-the-art US communication s equipment. Before the signing of COMCASA, these platforms were fitted with less secure commercially available electronics gear.
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What does COMCASA offer to India?
This US electronics equipment, using cutting-edge technology, is presently available only to the NATO allies, South Korea and Israel. The super-secure wireless equipment to which India has access now will facilitate greater security to the Indian armed forces during their operations in future wars against China and Pakistan.
Why does a bank offer credit card facilities to its customers? Ostensibly to lend them credit for meeting their short and long-term physical needs, but actually to bring them into the matrix of the bank’s financial operations to render them more and more dependent on it. Remember how the banks keep sending you SMSs to get credit for buying TVs, refrigerators, ACs, and forgetting finances for your foreign trips.
Americans concede that the US-supplied platforms, C-130J, P-81, and Chinook helicopters are capable to perform their assigned missions even without COMCASA-controlled equipment. Nevertheless, they argue that this equipment will provide a tremendous boost to the Indian military as potent for multipliers.
The US is aiming at bringing India into its strategic embrace primarily to contain China. With this in mind, the US strategic planners have1)Re-designated the USPacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command; 2) Initiated a series of tri-service military exercises, the largest with any country, incorporating the US, India, Japan, and Australia under the so-called QUAD;3) Is providing India with COMCASA compatible equipment to enable the Indian armed forces in generating common land, air, and sea battlefield pictures to inform on the activities of the Peoples Liberation Army, airforce, and navy;4) The secure electronics equipment will be valuable during the Indian surveillance of the Malacca Straights choke point, a task the US wants the Indian navy and airforce to perform within the ambit of the Indo-Pacific Command.
Read more: Challenges of QUAD and US Indo-Pacific strategy on the peaceful rise of China
What happens in the South China Sea, particularly the Strait of Malacca, is closely linked with CPEC. China is developing CPEC to counter the US plan for blockading the Strait of Malacca in the event of a war between the US and China. The US, goaded by India, is contemplating embarking on yet another series of quixotic adventures in the South China region.
To facilitate this, the US is providing COMCASA compatible equipment to India to snoop on the Chinese navy and air force. Reportedly, the US wants India to monitor the Chinese submarine traffic through the Strait of Malacca and, if possible, block it for the Chinese shipping in a future war. Western think tanks say that India can easily block Chinese shipping by parking a few ships at the mouth of the Strait of Malacca. This is a hare-brained scheme. The Strait of Malacca, if blocked, will be blocked for all maritime traffic that passes through it.
What likely Price India will have to pay in return for the US Largesse?
Though the hidden clauses of the COMCASA between India and the US have yet to be made public, we can make inferences after examining a similar agreement between the US and South Korea. These are:-
- US personnel access to Korean military installations.
- US personnel right to install, maintain and inspect the COMCASA controlled equipment.
- Banon the transfer of this equipment to any third country.
- Bandits indigenous production
- Stringent safeguards for securing, storing, and accounting for the equipment.
- South Korea is to pay the full cost to configure its communication system to be interoperable with US military system.
Implications for Pakistan
The Indo-US strategic paradigm considers Pakistan as an important factor in the Indo-US hostility towards China. During the conjectured contingencies regarding a hot engagement against China, Pakistani military and economic assets will be suppressed by India with the active involvement and assistance of the US. In this regard, the Arabian Ocean theatre will be dealt with in conjunction with the operations in the Indo-Pacific region. To be precise, the neutralization of Gwadar port and its linkage with China through CPEC will be the major Indo-US objective. This includes the Indian army and air force operations to interdict and obstruct the functioning of the Karakoram highway.
Pakistan needs to bring China and the US together by removing the US apprehensions and misunderstandings about CPEC. For this to happen, US sensitivities and fears about Chinese activities in the India – Pacific region should be addressed. Short of providing bases to the US, Pakistan should bargain for the fruition of its strategic goals and interests. These may be translated into a win-win relationship between the two hitherto estranged allies.
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Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.