Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - III (General Studies – II) - 10 September 2018

Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam

UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-III: General Studies -II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Q. “Despite odds signing of COMCASA agreement by India was almost certain it was just a matter of when it would really be done”. Examine (250 words)

Model Answer:


  • Why in news?
  • Introduction
  • How the signing of agreement was almost certain?
  • What are the odds?
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

COMCASA – Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement – was signed during the recently concluded 2-plus-2 dialogue held between Indian External Affairs and Defence Ministers, and their US counterparts.


COMCASA is meant to provide a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India that would facilitate “interoperability” between their forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secured data links. It is part of a set of three military agreements that the US considers foundational for a functional military relationship. The other two being –

  • Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) – Signed in August 2016.
  • Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) – yet to be negotiated.

How the signing of agreement was almost certain?

  • India has recently been designated the strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status by US, ostensibly to speed up the sale of high-tech defence products, subjected otherwise to strict controls and licensing. This is in apparent preparation for the signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (Comcasa)—a bilateral pact for secure military communications—at the inaugural “2+2” meeting.
  • In the absence of the COMCASA-agreement, platforms that India buys from the United States will be less capable. According to US, COMCASA will facilitate the use of high-end secured communication equipment to be installed on military platforms being sold to India, and fully exploit their potential. India’s armed forces are currently dependent on less secure, commercially available communication systems on high-end American platforms like C-130Js and the P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft. These platforms are, therefore, unable to share data in real time with other friendly militaries using American platforms, besides creating problems of interoperability during training exercises and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
  • Absence of a COMCASA agreement, in the air platform context, would mean the absence of “precision Global Positioning System (GPS) gear, and state-of-the-art guidance” in some of systems that India is planning to buy. The signing of COMCASA becomes imperative if India is to get the armed version of the Sea Guardian drones (from the US) which are critically dependent on a highly secure data and communication system link.
  • The US granted India the status of Major Defence Partner in the final days of the Obama administration to facilitate transfer of high-end defence technology. Signing the foundational agreements would underline that status, besides making the transfer of American defence technology possible to India.
  • COMCASA can facilitate cooperation on areas such as Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), which is critical for India considering China’s foray into Indian Ocean.

What are the odds?

  • COMCASA will “facilitate vertical and horizontal penetration by the US of India’s most sensitive government and military communications grids, including the nuclear Strategic Forces Command.
  • Signing these military agreements will essentially “foreclose India’s options.
  • Signing COMCASA could render incompatible India’s indigenous and Russian- origin military platforms with high-end assets acquired from the US, such as the leased Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine and the Su-30MKI combat aircraft” and it will cause trouble with Russia.
  • Some experts believe that US’s insistence on Comcasa stems from its growing discomfort with the India-Russia defence relationship. India’s continuing on Russian weaponry, they point out, has even led wary US officials to call for a “firewall between India’s cooperation with Russia and its cooperation with the US”.
  • There is an apprehension about a possible violation of Indian sovereignty due to visits by US inspectors to Indian bases to inspect the COMCASA-safeguarded equipment.
  • The sceptics fear that the Pakistan military, a key US partner in the global counterterrorism force, could exploit the system to gain access to some operationally valuable information about Indian military deployments.


Given the disadvantages of not having the COMCASA, there was little doubt that India would sign the agreement at some point.

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