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Looking forward to secure communication line: US on Sitharaman-Shanahan talks

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the start of the 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 02, 2019, 11.42 AM (IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

Early implementation of a secure communication line between Minister of External Affairs (MEA), India and the US Secretary of State and Minister of Defence, India and Secretary of Defence was the main focus of recent phone conversation between the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and acting United States Secretary of Defence Patrick M. Shanahan.

Speaking to WION exclusively, Pentagon Spokesman US Army Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said, "Both sides are reviewing the technical specifications for establishing the two secure communication lines and look forward to early implementation."

"At the inaugural US-India Ministerial 2+2 in New Delhi on September 6, the two sides agreed to establish secure communication between the Minister of External Affairs of India and the US Secretary of State and Minister of Defence of India and the US Secretary of Defense," he added.

During the 2+2 dialogue, India and US signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which will help New Delhi get access to advanced US defence systems and enable it to utilise its existing US-origin platforms. Last year, Washington also granted New Delhi Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status which will give India access to high-end US technology for defence purposes. India is the third Asian country after Japan and South Korea to get the STA-1 Status.

During PM Modi's US visit in June of 2016, the US recognised India as a "major defence partner" which commits Washington to facilitate technology sharing with India. Under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), both New Delhi and Washington are also exploring the possibilities of co-development and co-production.

In December of 2018, Nirmala Sitharaman was on a 5-day US visit during which she met with the then US Secretary of Defence James N Mattis and visited the headquarters of the INDO-US Pacific Command (INDO-PACOM) in Honolulu, Hawaii. She also visited Joint Base Pearl Harbour Hickam and boarded a US Guided Missile Destroyer.

US Pacific Command (PACOM), which is the largest US command, was renamed as INDO-PACOM as part of Indo Pacific concept which is being supported by both the countries. 

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Speaking to WION exclusively, Pentagon Spokesman US Army Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn said, "Both sides are reviewing the technical specifications for establishing the two secure communication lines and look forward to early implementation."