At the 2+2 meet, India and the United States signed the COMCASA, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Foreign Affairs Miinster Sushma Swaraj, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis were present at the time of signing. Michael Pompeo termed the 'Communications, Compatibility, Security Agreement (COMCASA)' agreement a "milestone" in the relationship and Nirmala Sitharaman asserted that the pact will enhance India's defence capability and preparedness. But the question is what is COMCASA and what it does for India.
What is COMCASA?
COMCASA is one of the three foundation agreements that need to be signed by a country with the United States to share high-end encrypted communication and satellite data. Till now, India is a signatory on only one of the foundational agreements, called the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), which was signed in 2016. Discussions have not even begun on the third agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
This agreement permits Indian military to function on high-end secured and encrypted communication equipment that are installed on American platforms obtained by Indian Armed Forces. These platforms include C-130 J, C-17, P-8I aircraft, and Apache and Chinook helicopters. This facilitates greater interoperability between forces and military hardware of the two countries, and also possibly with other countries that operate on US-origin platforms. Due to non-signing of COMCASA, these platforms were using commercially available communication systems.
How it helps India
The agreement is meant to provide a legal framework to allow transfer of encrypted communication security equipment from the US to India, which is said to be safer and more secure than the system that India uses right now. Currently, Indian military reportedly uses a locally-sourced platform to communicate between various weapons systems, which also includes the platforms that India has acquired from the US. The US government will be able to give the go-ahead to install the best communication equipment on relevant platforms being sold to India.