Wednesday, February 2, 2011

India Resists U.S. Export Agreement

Defense Technology International Feb 01 , 2011 , p. 51
Neelam Mathews

Printed headline: India Balks At Cismoa

With major U.S. military sales to India underway and the possibility of a winning American bid for the $10-billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft program, one seemingly non-negotiable condition affecting U.S. export of sensitive technology is unresolved—India’s refusal to sign the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (Cismoa).

Cismoa is a U.S. requirement that is intended to guarantee the secrecy of advanced C4ISR (command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) equipment on aircraft, ships and other platforms. Signing Cismoa would give India access to sensitive U.S. C4ISR technology and increase the interoperability of Indian and American forces during joint exercises and missions.

India’s refusal to sign the Cismoa export agreement with the U.S. means platforms such as this C-130J will not have advanced C4ISR technology.Credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN
With India buying Lockheed Martin heavy-lift C-130J transport planes, Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and light howitzers from the U.S., the Pentagon has suggested that an agreement on Cismoa would make some of these platforms more effective. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says an agreement would allow U.S. cryptologic data to be transferred to India, as well as navigational and targeting data.

“I see this [agreement] as an enabler of defense trade . . . that will lead to a great degree of interoperability when our forces work together, whether in relief or security operations,” Gates said during a recent visit to India.

The C-130Js are for air mobility and special operations. Though the aircraft and other equipment India bought is entirely functional without Cismoa, some capabilities such as GPS are enhanced with codes covered by the agreement.

“The GPS system India is buying is on commercial airplanes. It is a capable system, but the accuracy is not the same as if India signed the agreement,” says an Indian defense official. “Data link is another example—it allows you to share your picture with another plane or ship. Mission requirements are challenging. Not signing Cismoa ultimately affects weapons accuracy.”

With India showing no willingness to share codes with the U.S., the biggest sticking point is that lack of an agreement might restrict what the two forces share through radios or data links when working together. The two countries have, however, made do without Cismoa. “When we work together, we find a workable solution. So India may be wondering, if the current arrangement is working, why the need for an agreement?” says a U.S. Navy official.

In a recent exercise, naval liaison officers of both countries shared basic radio communications. “If we were fully operable and had these agreements in place, and the data link equipment assigned in planes and ships was interoperable, we could see aircraft and ship radar pictures over the data link,” the U.S. Navy official adds. “Right now, we don’t have classified data links, as Cismoa is not available. That leaves us operating at an unclassified level.”

There seems to be a measure of distrust and lack of confidence when it comes to U.S. technology. The Indian military believes the agreements are intrusive and that the U.S. would use them to examine Indian equipment under the guise of interoperability. Senior Indian officials seem adamant that a greater level of interoperability is not where India wants to go with the U.S. There is also concern that since Pakistan has signed Cismoa, Indian security could be compromised, even inadvertently.

“There is a fear we will disclose our information,” says an Indian defense analyst. “But without disclosure, we can’t get the technology.”

In fact, many Indian military officials fear excessive control by the U.S. if Cismoa is signed, as well as a compromising of internal secrets. “The absence of certain military agreements with the U.S. does not affect the operational capability of the armed forces, said Indian Air Force Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik late last year (see excerpts from an interview with Naik on p. 50).

“There is no doubt that by not signing Cismoa, India will not have access to full capabilities. However, geopolitics rules in government decisions and this could be leveraged by India at a later date during discussions of other matters,” a senior Indian defense official says.

“The government sees this as a political symbol of interoperability that diminishes India’s non-aligned policy—but a time will come when India sits as a United Nations Security Council member and will have to take sides,” says a diplomat.

Other military agreements with the U.S. that have not yet been signed include the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation and the Logistics Supply Agreement that would allow, on a reciprocal basis, U.S. warships, aircraft and personnel to access Indian bases for refueling, resulting in major cost savings.