India and the US have signed a major defense pact on Thursday after a crucial 2+2 ministerial dialogue in New Delhi.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Signing of the COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) by Smt @nsitharaman and US Secretary of Defense #SecDef James Mattis after the inaugural 2+2 Dialogue. The agreement is a historic step towards strengthening defence cooperation between the two nations. pic.twitter.com/UbIoqfLFXz— Raksha Mantri (@DefenceMinIndia) September 6, 2018
"They [the ministers] welcomed the signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that will facilitate access to advanced defense systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing US-origin platforms," read a joint statement issued after the dialogue.
Pompeo in his address to the media said that both sides had decided to go forward on an "ambitious plan" to "elevate" defense cooperation and in this path the signing of COMCASA is a "major step" in defense collaboration that will allow both countries to work together to protect the Indo-Pacific region.
We will continue working together, join hands and expand India's role as a primary major defence partner, to elevate our relationship to a level to commence with our closest allies and partners: US Secretary of State James Mattis after '2+2 Dialogue' pic.twitter.com/uvESznoBxN— ANI (@ANI) September 6, 2018
"Defense cooperation has emerged as the most significant dimension of our bilateral relationship," Nirmala Sitharaman said in a press statement.
Both countries have also decided to carry out tri-service joint exercises on the eastern coast of India later this year. The ministers also announced their readiness to begin negotiations on an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defense industry cooperation and collaboration.
"The Ministers committed to start exchanges between the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and the Indian Navy, underscoring the importance of deepening their maritime cooperation in the western Indian Ocean," the joint statement read.