The Times of Islamabad reported earlier on Tuesday that military officials in New Delhi are reluctant to sign the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) with the United States.
The report cited India’s concern over the agreement potentially allowing Washington to listen in on military operations as the main reason why the country refused to join the agreement for the time being. According to Reuters, Captain Gurpreet Khurana, executive director at the government-funded National Maritime Foundation, stated that India’s main concern was having its autonomy stifled by binding its military to U.S. codes and operating procedures.
The Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement is part of a new policy towards India instated by the Trump administration, which calls for a “free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific” relations. As reported by the Times of Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described India and the U.S. as being “regional bookends” of the single strategic arena that are the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
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His statement, however, stands in sharp contrast to the general hostility Indian officials have shown towards any joint agreement between the states. David Shear, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia under President Barack Obama, said that U.S. forces were well aware of the interoperability problems the military, particularly the Navy, faces when interacting with India.
“They understand what the obstacles are and that this is going to be a long-term project,” he said in a report by the Times of Islamabad.
This is not the first time India reluctant to sign a deal with the U.S.
The Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS), a coalition data-sharing network established in 2002 by the U.S. also saw India reluctant to commit to full cooperation.
According to an Indian source briefed on the issue, and as reported by the Islamabad Times, India refused to allow the communication system to be plugged in for the duration of joint military exercises. While a member of the exchange system on paper, in practice India seems hesitant to conform to any codes or rules implied in the deals.
Islamabad Times’ source also said that even the joint air exercises that the two countries are conducting are severely restricted. Despite continually sending their Russian-acquired Sukhoi jets to fight alongside the U.S. Airforce, the Indian military makes sure their radars and jammers are always turned off.
Recent DCG development might be behind India’s animosity
The United States-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group (DCG) held its 25th meeting in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi earlier in September. According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, the meeting yielded positive results as both countries acknowledged that continued cooperation remains vital to promoting peace, security, and stability in the region and beyond.
The delegations led by Defense Secretary Lieutenant General Zamir Ul Hassan Shah and Ambassador David B. Shear, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, issued a joint statement expressing the satisfaction both countries had with their bilateral security partnerships.
Such strong and public outing of the two countries’ partnership might have had an adverse effect on India, currently engaged in a series of diplomatic controversies with Pakistan. Doordarshan News reported earlier Thursday that India’s Ministry of External Affairs has blamed Pakistan for harboring terrorism on their soil.
The strong accusation made by Indian officials come hours after the Pakistani Foreign Office accused India of “politicizing” humanitarian issues. Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said India’s selective issuing of medical visas to Pakistani citizens was “regrettable” and a calculated move to gain political power.
While these diplomatic quarrels might not have a direct impact on the joint military strategy between the two countries, they are clearly indicative of a deep chasm being created between India and Pakistan.
How the U.S. will manage India’s current unwillingness to comply with operations led under CISMOA remains unclear. It is evident that the two neighboring countries need to address the many unresolved issues looming over their stability, namely the Kashmir issue before any progress is made on the stability of the region and the proposed Indo-Pacific defense plan.