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India and US unlikely to sign pact for mutual access to geospatial maps

Two other foundational agreements have already been inked – one for sharing of military logistics and another that enables transfer of secure communication equipment to enhance interoperability.

, ET Bureau|
Aug 10, 2019, 07.54 AM IST
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Access to database of global maps that is critical for precise targeting of weapon systems and operational planning, has been in discussions for several years.
NEW DELHI: India and the US are unlikely to sign a key foundational defence agreement for mutual access to high accuracy geospatial maps at an upcoming meeting between the defence and foreign leaders next month as technical issues on sharing of data have still not been worked out.

However, an industrial security pact has been finalised at a recent meeting of the Defence Policy Group (DPG) in Washington and the agreement is likely to be formally inked – enabling US military manufacturers to share high end technology with their Indian partners.

Sources told ET that the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) was discussed at the DPG meet led by Defence secretary Sanjay Mitra from the Indian side but `too many issues’ still remain unresolved.

The agreement, which would give India access to a database of global maps that is critical for precise targeting of weapon systems and operational planning, has been in discussions for several years with sources saying that all queries by both sides on how it will be operationalized have not yet been answered.

Two other of the so called foundational agreements have already been inked – one for sharing of military logistics and another that enables transfer of secure communication equipment to enhance interoperability.

The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) is currently being operationalized with the equipping of new equipment on US origin platforms in service with Indian forces and the activation of systems that had come as an integral part of others.

Two sides have worked out all formalities for the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) pact will add to existing agreements on protection of classified military information, sources said, adding that this is set to be inked at the 2+2 meeting next month between the Defence and Foreign ministers of the two nations.

The pact is critical for any transfer of technology by a US firm to its Indian partners. The pact is expected to enable the India US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) that was signed in 2012 but has not resulted in any major project on the ground yet.

The ISA will involve Indian government assurances on the safety and security of technology against transfer and access to third parties. Once operational, US companies wishing to transfer technology to India will be able to do so through the government route. For critical technology, US companies will submit documentation to the US government that will share it with their Indian counterparts through diplomatic channels.

This technology piece will then be sent to the Indian industry by the government which will first satisfy itself that adequate safeguard mechanisms are in place for its protection. The ISA will be vital for US companies to participate in all upcoming Make in India projects.
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