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US wants security pact for sharing technology with India's private sector

Washington is asking New Delhi to sign an annexure to GSOMIA that would cover the Indian private sector

Ajai Shukla  |  New Delhi 

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Lockheed, Trump, Donald Trump
Lockheed's $379-billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (Photo: Reuters)

In New Delhi, on December 4, an official from the (Pentagon) displayed photographs that convincingly documented China’s theft of design information relating to America’s most — fifth-generation fighter aircraft and advanced unmanned aerial vehicles. His purpose: To explain to the audience of Indian and US military, defence ministry, and industry honchos why New Delhi was being asked to sign an agreement binding the Indian to safeguard information it receives relating to American One such agreement, termed “General of Military Information Agreement” (GSOMIA), was signed on January 17, 2002, between the Indian and US defence ministers of that time, and of 2002 prescribes standards and protocols for safeguarding information shared by the Pentagon with India’s defence ministry; as well as by US defence firms with Indian defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs). However, does not cover the exchange of with Indian private companies. wants this covered, given New Delhi’s emphasis on the “strategic partnership” (SP) model of procurement, in which Indian private firms will manufacture for the military, using technology transferred by global “original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs). is not demanding a fresh agreement. It is asking New Delhi to sign an annexure to that would cover the Indian This, however, remains stuck in the Indian defence ministry’s decision pipeline. “It seems everything in New Delhi must be cleared at the level of defence minister, even prime minister,” complains a former Pentagon official, speaking anonymously. “US companies are keen to partner Indian private companies designated as SPs, but sharing technical information, which is essential for a technical manufacturing partnership, requires to extend the to the private sector,” says of the US-Business Council. Schwartz explains how this works in practice. If New Delhi chooses two private Indian firms to competitively build, say a tank; and they want to partner a US company, the American firm currently cannot share any with them. It could share information with DPSUs like of Bharat Electronics, but not with L&T, or the Tatas. is not a public document. It is one of four agreements – initially termed “foundational agreements” by Washington, but recently toned down to “enabling agreements” – required by US legislation for facilitating deeper defence cooperation. A second agreement, the Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that facilitates mutual logistical inter-dependence, was signed in 2016. Two others are currently being negotiated. The Communications Compatibility and Agreement (COMCASA), which safeguards secure communications equipment, is at a more advanced stage.

There is less progress on the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information and Services Cooperation (BECA), which lays down protocols for digital mapping and survey. values the formidable operational advantage its military gains from its advanced and has enacted strong legislation to safeguard that. India, in contrast, has not traditionally safeguarded military technology. In the American establishment, personnel and entities are accorded classification – like confidential, secret or top secret – which governs the level of they are cleared to handle. This is strictly observed. When somebody cleared to handle “secret” information communicates with another person or entity that is cleared only to handle “confidential” information (one level lower), he or she must weigh each word to maintain the exchange at the “confidential” level and to ensure no “secret” information is inadvertently passed on. US defence industry has similar clearances. For example, an F-16 plant has some sections with a classification of “confidential”, and others classified “secret”. Access to each section is governed by a visitor’s classification. New Delhi officials complain this is just an “American problem”, and that never raises such demands. US officials counter that ignores technology because it simply does not have the highest-end technology.

First Published: Sat, December 23 2017. 23:53 IST