It could be stated with certainty that the US partnership with security organizations from different countries has always been one of the most important aspects of US foreign policy. Particularly, the relationships with India, especially in the context of intelligence and military services’ cooperation, gained critical importance in the past decade. As it is mentioned by Rajagopalan (2018), India signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002 and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016. These two acts are among the so-called foundational agreements, which have the purpose of regulating the relationships between the United States and countries that purchase military and intelligence supplies from the U. S. (Rajagopalan, 2018).
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As of September 6, 2018, the United States and India have signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) as the result of the meeting between United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, United States Defence Secretary James ‘Jim’ Mattis, and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (“What is COMCASA?” 2018).
This agreement could be considered as the landmark act in the history of diplomatic and economic relationships between the United States and India due to its immense significance and the vast impact on various aspects of the US-India relations. The purpose of this paper is to provide the background for the emergence of the COMCASA, analyze possible benefits and threats related to the agreement, and then to synthesize a supported recommendation for the extension of the intelligence partnership between the United States and India.
A Brief Background on India’s Intelligence Services
First of all, it is of high importance to observe the development of intelligence services in India. As it is stated by Sukumar and Sharma (2016), in recent decades, India has been going through considerable changes in terms of improving its intelligence services such as cybersecurity and intelligence gathering. Historically, in the period of the Cold War, the United States and India did not have close diplomatic relationships due to their opposing geopolitical interests and ideologies (Khokhar, 2018).
However, since the late 90s, and especially after 9/11, the US government recognized India as “the net provider of security and stability in South Asia” (Khokhar, 2018). For example, the ten-year agreement of the Defense and Trade Technology Initiative (DTTI), signed in 2012, boosted the advancement of intelligence technologies in India significantly (Khokhar, 2018). Overall, the development of defense and security cooperation between the United States and India had a vast positive impact on the improvement of Indian intelligence services.
The Observation of the US Intelligence Community’s Goals and Objectives
Further, it is also essential to observe the Intelligence Community (IC) of the United States as well as its goals and objectives as the activity of the IC is largely connected with the primary topic of this paper. In general, Webb, Ahmad, Maynard, and Shanks (2014) argue that the performance of the IC is based on the intelligence cycle framework. According to the authors, the framework is interpreted variously among different scholars; however, the most comprehensive representation of it consists of the following elements: “requirements, planning, direction, collection, processing, exploitation, analysis, production, dissemination, consumption, and feedback” (Webb et al., 2014, p. 9). Thus, it is possible to summarize that the IC’s activities have a considerable vast scope.
In particular, one of the primary goals of the IC is the elimination of the terrorist threat. For example, Weitz (2017) mentions that the relationships between the United States and India began to grow positively based on cooperation in the development of counterterrorism-related technologies.
Therefore, it could be stated that the IC’s objectives include the process of data gathering, the advancement of the existing intelligence services, as well as promoting the collaborative efforts against the terrorist threat (Weitz, 2017). Moreover, the development of defense technologies and training the intelligence units are also within the scope of the IC (Rosen & Jackson, 2017). Accordingly, it could be stated that the IC has the overall purpose of establishing and maintaining a high level of national security as well as international security.
Strategic and Operational Benefits from the Partnership with India
As the brief observation of the background of intelligence services in the United States and India was provided along with the fact that the COMCASA is signed, it is critical to discuss what benefits could be retrieved by the US government from it. Enough, the signing of this agreement is a highly important step in the direction of building a strong long-term partnership with India, which is the course of the US-India relationships in the past two decades (Khokhar, 2018).
Secondly, the COMCASA allows developing “greater access to critical communication networks to enable better interoperability between the Indian and U.S. militaries” (Rajagopalan, 2018, para. 5). The extension and advancement of the technologies that India is buying from the U.S. as well as the increased interoperability would benefit the US government because the US and Indian militaries would cooperate more effectively.
Threats and Risks to the US National Security Caused by the Partnership
Even though there are significant strategic benefits obtained from the COMCASA, there are also threats and risks, which are imposed by this agreement. First of all, some of the critiques of the COMCASA argue that the agreement would destabilize the relationships between India and Russia. As they have considerably close diplomatic ties due to the long-lasting history of political and economic relationships, the strengthening of the collaboration between the United States and India could be perceived as a threat (Rajagopalan, 2018).
Secondly, it is apparent enough that the increased interoperability works reciprocally for both countries: not only the United States gain better control over the Indian intelligence services, but India also becomes involved in the intelligence processes of the United States (Rosen & Jackson, 2017). Therefore, it could be summarized that threats and risks are present.
The Scope of the Intelligence Relationship
It is of high significance to observe that the primary scope of the intelligence relationships between the United States and India is the establishing and maintaining of the security and counterterrorism-related activities in South Asia (Weitz, 2017). Therefore, it is essential to balance the previously mentioned benefits and risks of the implementation of the COMCASA in the context of this overall purpose. As it was already stated, India is considered by the US government as the primary strategic partner in the Asian region. Thus, the implementation of the COMCASA primarily aims for the fulfillment of this purpose. Accordingly, the risks and threats are outweighed by the importance of the obtained benefits.
Recommendations on the Expansion of the Intelligence Community in India
Finally, it is possible to suggest recommendations for the potential expansion of the US Intelligence Community and other intelligence services in India. From a large-scale perspective, such expansion would benefit the United States as well as India. It is recommended that the United States would continue to advance its collaboration with the Indian government. This aspect of the US foreign policy is highly beneficial for America because the extension of the American presence in the Asian region would positively impact the counterterrorism activities, for which both India and the United States’ aims. However, it is also apparent that the advancement of the US-India cooperation should be gradual since it is essential to make sure that the existing relationships and services work efficiently and safely for both partners.
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In conclusion, it is critical to restate the immense importance of the COMCASA for the diplomatic relationships between the United States and India as well as its implications for the international political sphere in general. This paper provides a background that led to the enactment of the agreement under consideration. As it is apparent from numerous academic works, the contemporary direction of the US-India relationship’s development is determined solely by the mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.
The paper exemplifies evident examples of benefits that could be gained by the United States’ government from the COMCASA. Additionally, to be critical enough, risks and threats are also discussed, but they are found to be less apparent and substantial than the benefits. Therefore, the paper provides the recommendation of the further extension of the US-India partnership in the sphere of intelligence services.
Khokhar, R. (2018). The US-India strategic partnership: Pakistan’s foreign policy response. Quarterly Journal of Center for International Strategic Studies, 6(1), 23-49.
Rajagopalan, R. P. (2018). The COMCASA Question in US-India Military Relations. The Diplomat. Web.
Rosen, M., & Jackson, D. (2017). The US India defense relationship: Putting the foundational agreements in perspective. Web.
Sukumar, A., & Sharma, R. K. (2016). The Cyber Command: Upgrading India’s national security architecture. Web.
Webb, J., Ahmad, A., Maynard, S. B., & Shanks, G. (2014). A situation awareness model for information security risk management. Computers & Security, 44, 1-15.
Weitz, R. (2017). Promoting US Indian defense cooperation: Opportunities and obstacles. Web.
What is COMCASA? Security agreement between India-US signed during 2+2 summit a boost for defence preparedness. (2018). Financial Express. Web.