Assessing India - United States Security Agreements: A Critical Analysis

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Asia is now a central part of world politics, where the interests of a number of global and regional actors have collided, including India, China, Japan, the United States and Russia. With the collapse of the socialist bloc and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. embarked on a new security policy, changed its priorities, promoting a new balance of power and defining a new role for itself in the post-bipolar world. India, on the other hand, has strengthened its position in the Asian region thanks to its rapid economic growth, huge domestic market, modernization of armed forces, and practice of democratization. Given India’s transformation and the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean and its maritime transport routes, Washington has become interested in strengthening ties with New Delhi. As a result, India - U.S. relations are moving from the estrangement of the past to the strategic engagement of the present. Since 2004, when the document entitled “Next Step towards Strategic Partnership” was adopted, the two countries have been experiencing a phase of deep strategic convergence. This is particularly true in the area of security and defense. In the present study the author argues that Indo-US defense agreements stimulate India’s offensive power, while negatively affecting regional security in South Asia and especially Pakistan’s security. In the milieu of research methodology, the author uses the methods of content analysis, event analysis, and problem-chronological method.

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Historically India and the United States were in opposite blocs — during the Cold War Washington led the Western bloc against the USSR, while New Delhi, on the contrary, pursued a more open and neutral course, being one of the organizers of the Non-aligned Movement. The end of the Cold War had a serious impact on international processes, which was one of the reasons for the further development of relations between the two countries, especially in defense and security.

As its foreign policy priorities shifted in the 1990s, India needed new and advanced technological weapons to realize its foreign policy ambitions in South Asia and beyond, while the United States wanted a new market for its weapons and to turn India into an outpost to counter anti-American forces. The convergence of interests, thus, brought India and the United States much closer together.

The very first step which was taken by both sides with the aim to improve security and defense-oriented relationship was the signing of the “Agreed Minute on Defense Relations” (AMDR) in 1995.1 Under the umbrella of AMDR, defense policy, mutual based technology and reciprocated militaries cooperation groups were founded (Sharma, 2012). However, the hurdles and differences in arms and technology sales remained. The Pokhran-II nuclear tests conducted by India in 1998 turned things back towards estrangement. Washington condemned New Delhi’s actions and imposed sanctions on the trade in arms and other weapons-related technologies, as well as India’s defense sector.[2]

Soon after two years, things started getting back on track after B. Clinton’s visit to India in 2000. The constructive dialogues between S. Talbott and J. Singh also uncluttered the new-fangled gates of cooperation in defense, economy and nuclear technology. In 2004 and 2005, two important documents, the “Next Step toward Strategic Partnership” (NSSP)[3] and the “New Framework for the U.S. — India Defense Relationship” (NFDR)4 were signed, ushering in a new era of mutual cooperation between the two countries.

Under the umbrella of NSSP, the two states agreed to expand their cooperation in very three specific sectors: civil nuclear, civil space, defense and security, and high technology exchange. The aim behind the inauguration of the NFDR, on the other hand, was to provoke the defense trade and exchange of armed forces, and military exercises. This agreement was renewed for 10 years in 2015.5

The administrations of B. Obama and D. Trump opened new horizons for Indo-US security cooperation by granting India the status of Major Defense Partner and privileges under Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1), respectively (Ahamed, 2021). Moreover, in 2012, both states agreed on the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) to strengthen security and defense ties, which is considered a major triumph for the B. Obama administration.[6]

Thus, India and the U.S. have maintained a stable and reliable relationship, which some experts believe has serious implications for Pakistan (Singh, 2019), especially in the context of the evolving U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy (Hayat, Zaid & Shahzad, 2020, p. 63). Along with military cooperation, the security agreements signed between India and the U.S. further expanded the process of exceptional high-tech transfers, and defense-related trade emerged as the main pillar of the security agreements. This partnership was further developed through a series of so-called foundational security agreements.[7]

This is a desk research prepared using secondary data collected from published annals, libraries search devices and other Internet sources. The author used historical, descriptive and analytical methods. In order to reach at an objective conclusion, the technique of content analysis has been used along based on exploring concrete realities. A cross comparison critical analysis of the available data was carried out to ensure the balance of the study and to avoid bias.


General Security of Military Information Agreement

The first foundational agreement signed by two countries in 2002 was the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). The aim was truly to share the in-depth intelligence information with each other. In addition, it was mandatory for both parties to keep save the information and sensitive intelligence data firmly (Shida, 2019).

The signing of this agreement has its own background. In 1981, India expressed its willingness to buy the F-5G light fighter aircrafts from the U.S., but Washington was afraid to sell them, believing that it could lead to the leak of sensitive intelligence information. Not only this, but also the nuclear, space and dual technology issues were part of the U.S. concerns. As a result, in 1984 both states signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Technology Transfers (Samuel, 2007). Similarly, in 2002, the U.S. insisted that India sign GSOMIA along with additional conditions and try to remove all ambiguities and strengthen mutual trust between the states.

The signing of GSOMIA played an important role in the development of Indo-US relations, as Washington lifted sanctions imposed after New Delhi’s nuclear tests in 1998. For India, this agreement opened up the possibility of purchasing advanced fourth- and fifth-generation weapons and technologies from the United States and generally brought the two countries closer together (Rosen & Jackson, 2017). One of the direct consequences of this rapprochement has been the resumption of the Malabar naval exercises since 2002.8

Moreover, under the umbrella of GSOMIA, India and the U.S. signed the Industrial Security Annex (ISA)[9] at the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue meeting in 2019[10] with the purpose to build up cooperation between the defense industries of the two countries and to produce the advanced weapons, especially using advanced fighter aircraft technologies. According to experts, the ISA is likely to launch private-private juxtaposition of two countries in the defense industry,[11] which will contributeto the development of India’s defense industry and could be extremely beneficial for New Delhi.[12]

Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement

On August 29, 2016, the U.S. and India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA),13 marking a step forward in the security engagement between the two countries, particularly in the context of the use of military infrastructure. Basically, the LEMOA is an explicitly Indian-based unambiguous version of the Logistic Support Agreement (LSA).14 It is worth noting that Washington has signed similar logistic support agreements with only a limited number of countries with which it has close military cooperation.15

The main purpose of adopting LEMOA was to provide strong and authentic strategic logistical assistance during the operations times, as well as to enhance military communication, strong operability and brawny strong security entrenchment (Ramaswamy & Shivaswamy, 2018). The agreement places great emphasis on logistical aspects assistance such as sea port calls, joint military exercises, humanitarian assistance, and disaster management and relief. As such, LEMOA is viewed by experts as an important milestone in the defense history of the participating countries.

The new agreement opens up additional opportunities for the U.S. and Indian air forces and navies to use bases in the Indo-Pacific region for “refilling, refueling and replenishment.”[16] In fact, it creates a comfort zone for India’s regional naval activities. This agreement will further enhance India’s offensive power in the Indian Ocean region, which could prove extremely effective in satisfying India's quest for regional dominance and hegemony.

In terms of benefits to the United States, this agreement is the gleam of its third offset strategy,17 as well as a buck-passing and balancing strategy, based on John Mearsheimer’s offensive realism (Mearsheimer, 2001). One of the goals of the American policy is to make India strong enough to deter or counter anti-American forces.

Speaking of China and Pakistan, it should be noted that both countries have extremely serious security concerns due to the growing and ever-increasing strategic relationship between India and the U.S. According to Pakistani strategic experts, this agreement has many enormous implications for Pakistan.18

The ongoing Indo-US strategic rapprochement and the LEMOA agreement itself expand India’s ambitions for both regional hegemony and beyond under the safe cover of the U.S. The agreement increases India’s advantage by provoking heightened political tensions and deepening the traditional power asymmetry in South Asia between the two regional rivals, India and Pakistan.

Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement

Interestingly, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) is a modified version of the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) adapted for the benefit of India’s defense sector and granting greater privileges to India. This is the landmark output of the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue meeting held in September 2018.19 It can be described as the success and triumph story of the most recent security relationship between two states.

Additionally, COMCASA is framed to improve interoperability, communications, and likely the ability to operate the U.S. tactical advanced reconnaissance systems and protect critical data.20 Under this agreement, both countries agreed to avoid transfer of their information to any third party without mutual consent, which is especially important to the Indian side.21 In fact, COMCASA allows the Indian and US militaries to use communication channels that were previously unavailable.[22]

Through the COMCASA platform, New Delhi and Washington have been able to interact in several formats, such as joint threat assessment, planning and conducting joint operations against all types of insurgencies, training and rehearsal activities of armed forces, cooperation in command and control structures and systems, and logistical and communications support to each other.23 This agreement not only opened the door for India to use the US defense communications technology, but also gave India access to the US intelligence technology, including real-time intelligence technology, which New Delhi sees as an asset that India can use against its adversaries, particularly Pakistan.24 Through COMCASA, both states enable to monitor the movements of their adversaries and their course of actions particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. In addition, in the coming years, after the implementation of COMCASA, the Indian sea-based drones will be replaced by advanced technologies (MQ-9B SeaGuardian UAV),25 which have more power to do intelligence and can stay in the air for more than 30 hours.

According to the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) in 2018—2021 P. Davidson, “We are looking onward and forward to fully operationalizing the COMCASA with India because the defense ties between New Delhi and Whitehouse is too high.”26 The Economic Times report argues that “The agreement will be a game changer for India in the area of interoperability, communication, intelligence and real-time intelligence,” which will have adverse impact on Pakistan’s security and might put Pakistan’s defense assets and nuclear munitions at risk, as well as Pakistan’s missiles deterrence at high risk.27

Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 Status

STA-1 is explicitly linked to the U.S. export control mechanism and is a club of countries authorized to export and re-export certain Commerce Control List items.28 These countries are also members of four multilateral exports control regimes: Nuclear Safeguard Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group (AG) and Wassenaar Arrangement (WA). Washington has granted this privileged status to only 37 countries29 that are critical to the US national interests.

India was granted STA-1 special status in July 2018. The granting of this status to India has had a significant impact on the security of the South Asian region. In fact, as of 2018, New Delhi has gained full access to the US technologies, including those related to fourth- and fifth-generation advanced munitions (combat aircraft and munitions) and dual-use technologies, without having to acquire licenses. As a result, approximately 50% of the arms trade between two countries is not subject to licensing under STA-1.30 Reciprocally, the consequences for the strategic stability of South Asia are dire. Importantly, STA-1 has now allowed the sharing of fifth generation warfare aircrafts and munitions which are related to fifth generations’ wars.31

Undoubtedly, India’s elevation to the priority category of the US partner countries will open up more opportunities for the U.S. defense industry. The granting of STA-1 status may also signal Washington’s desire to push Moscow out of both the Indian arms market and as a major partner in the Indian defense industry, and possibly take its place. No doubt, this decade has witnessed a massive arms trade between two countries with value of millions of dollars — AH-64E helicopters, F-35 aircrafts, drones, security information sensors, aerospace juxtaposition technology and advanced communication tools are the part of this military-technical relationship.32

Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement

On October 27, 2020, during the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue meeting, two countries signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).33 This agreement gives India access to the US geo-spatial data, including satellites as well as topographic, geophysical, geomagnetic, geodetic data, and nautical and aero-maritime charts.

Prior to BECA, the Indian specified COMCASA is also a purely strategic pact and through COMCASA the United States shares GIS system, topography, terrain and weather information for the purpose of military operations and exercises. Under the umbrella of BECA, India will get real-time clear photos, pictures and videos in the context of satellites-based images and airborne accessibility. It is worth noting that prior to the signing of this agreement India already had access to intelligence information provided by the United States under the existing Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), including geographic information system data, meteorological data, and so on. New Delhi, however, has access to geospatial and other data in real time as they are transmitted by the US satellites. The information and data from the U.S. will be provided to India in real time and this accessibility will boost Indian military power in the new era of digital warfare and artificial intelligence.

Through this agreement, India will have access to checkmate the military positions and demands of its adversaries and their movements.34 After signing this agreement and having access to advanced and latest weapons technologies and data sharing, Indian ballistic and cruise missiles accuracy will be stronger,35 allowing India to engage the enemy more accurately and effectively. It will also increase the effectiveness of India’s unmanned aerial vehicles, especially attack drones.

By following this agreement, the U.S. will install sensors with digital power along with installation of very latest avionics as well as navigation tools within the land of India to monitor potential threats in the extended periphery of India. In addition, this agreement will enable India to track all movements in the Indian Ocean region, as well as the location of military groups and activities of its adversary, Pakistan, in the western Indian Ocean.

Cost for Pakistan

Military and diplomatic relations between Pakistan and India have remained tense since independence. The two states are regional rivals with a clear asymmetry of capabilities between them. This is particularly important given that Pakistan’s security is intertwined with India’s offensive threat.

India’s military power ranks fourth out of 145 nations on the Global Firepower website, while Pakistan’s rank is seventh.36 The gap between India’s and Pakistan’s defense spending is also significant. While Pakistan spends only 7 billion USD annually on defense, India spends 47 billion USD. The Indian government has increased its defense spending by an average of 5.5% every year. Because of its large defense budget, India is always at the offensive peak of its military (Abbasi & Nisar, 2022, p. 3878).

Against the backdrop of India’s growing military capabilities, the development of defense cooperation between New Delhi and Washington further strengthens India. According to a number of Pakistani experts, Pakistan’s national security is threatened by the growing the U.S. — India pairing (Khan, 2013), which could lead to a military clash between India and Pakistan (Yusuf, 2018) or a full-scale war (Ganguly, 2016). Moreover, the Indo-US rapprochement in the military-political and military-technical spheres is a serious blow to the military and nuclear parity in India — Pakistan relations that existed until 1998.37 Thus, the U.S. is upsetting the long-standing balance of power in South Asia, which is becoming asymmetrical.

The active development of defense cooperation between India and the United States is also driven by Washington’s desire to contain China’s rise. As a result, India is receiving massive assistance, which has significantly increased both India’s military power and its offensive ambitions in Asia and beyond. Against this backdrop, New Delhi has also increased its nuclear naval deterrence by inaugurating the strategic strike nuclear submarine Arihant, which can strike the targets with the range of 750 kilometers (Joshi, 2020). All of this has an additional negative impact on the regional balance of power, pushing Pakistan closer to China, which has an interest in maintaining the balance of power in the region (Hussain, 2017).

The security agreements between India and the USA (GSOMIA, LEMOA, COMCASA, and BECA) are undoubtedly threatening not only the regional security, but also the emerging imbalance in the strategic stability of South Asia. There seems to be a possibility that India will use this extraordinary care given by the U.S. to India against Pakistan and use this situational awareness intelligence against Pakistan’s nuclear, conventional and missile installations and assets which will reciprocally force Pakistan to take countermeasures against India. Moreover, these agreements create a security dilemma not only for Pakistan, but also for small South Asian states.

In the Asian nuclear belt, which includes Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, the U.S. is trying to counter China’s growing influence by limiting Russia and moving closer to India (Einhorn & Sidhu, 2017). There is no doubt that with the mammoth power, the skirmish between the dragon and the eagle is on the rise (Edelstein, 2019) and reciprocally, India is used as a mass passing ally. Economically and militarily powerful India can be more offensive not only for Pakistan, but also for its peripheral states and the U.S. probably uses India especially in “South China Sea card” and for its strategic motives (Mahrukh, 2017, p. 115). Moreover, India itself realizes how important it is for the U.S., which wants to use it to counter China, so it is playing a double game: New Delhi is buying S-400 air defense missile systems from Russia without fear of sanctions, quoting India’s Chief of Army Staff for 2016—2019, Bipin Rawat (Shaza, 2021).

The arms race in the region, especially between India and Pakistan, is also becoming a byproduct of Indo-US agreements. The growing bilateral strategic partnership and emerging security arrangements between two stated would provoke Indian belligerence, strategic along with conventional power projection and capabilities. The consistent/regular buildup of “A” (India) military power under the Indo-US security embrace would simultaneously poses a dilemma for the security of “B” (Pakistan) and other weaker small states.

The security agreements will further enhance India’s offensive military doctrine — “Cold Start” (CSD).38 The BECA agreement will further provoke network-centric warfare and integrate military doctrine/strategies with real-time attack (Babar & Mirza, 2021, p. 87).

Through the CSD, Indian Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs)39 operate near the India — Pakistan border (Khan & Khalid, 2018, p. 335). The strategy for their employment is based on the Threat, Terrain, Task and Resources (TTTR) principle.40 The IBGs, based on the TTTR, pose a massive threat to Pakistan’s border security and the threat of a limited incursion (Khattak, 2020, p. 130), which can lead to a nuclear war.

As a result, the security of Pakistan and other neighboring countries may be at risk. In 2017, Indian Air Force Chief of Staff Birender Singh Dhanoa stated that “Next time, there should be a surgical strike on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.”41 In the context of increasing digitalization and advanced technology, Indian foreign intelligence agency called Research and Analysis Wing is playing its role through digital and computerized numerical data sharing confidential and strategic information with the motive of creating chaos in Pakistan.[42]

It is worth noting that this is not the first time that the U.S. — India relationship has had serious security implications for Pakistan, as it has for China (Madan, 2020, p. 11). Most probably, the growing security and nuclear cooperation between two states is challenging the Indian “no first use” nuclear policy and replacing it with “first use” (Narang, 2018), as well as nuclear deterrence midst India — Pakistan, which can move the region towards an unstoppable nuclear arm race and threaten the Asian nuclear belt (Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea). India’s nuclear policy after the Indo-US rapprochement in this area appears to be a major offensive retaliation and assertion of dominance over Pakistan (Abbasi & Khan, 2020).


In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the veracious adoptions fortify the global peace, while the erroneous adoptions extinguish the global sphere. In the nutshell perspective, the mounting strategic conglomerate and security accords midst India and the U.S. has sown the seeds of endemic new arm race in South Asia and instability. The Pentagon verdict to endow and care India in strategic and warfare tools has adverse impact and subsequently it surges the Indian warlike objectives, which will be more antagonistic, warlike and unsympathetic, which in turn will threaten the sovereignty and security of neighboring states. Since Pakistan’s security is closely linked to India’s offensive capabilities, it is Pakistan, main rival and traditional adversary of India that is more threatened.


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8 Malabar Naval Exercises have been conducted since 1992 on a bilateral basis with the participation of India and the US, but after India’s 1998 nuclear tests, Washington stopped its participation. Between 1992 and 2021, 24 exercises were conducted. See: Malabar Naval Exercises // Press Information Bureau. Government of India. February 8, 2021. URL: (accessed: 23.03.2022).

9 Annual meetings between India’s Foreign Minister and Defense Minister and the U.S. Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, held from 2018. See: What India, US Would Have Discussed in ‘2+2’ Dialogue // The Indian Express. July 3, 2018. URL: (accessed: 23.03.2022).

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37 See: Sawhney P. Why India’s Latest Defense Agreement with the United States May Prove a Costly Bargain // The Wire. October 27, 2020. URL: (accessed: 23.03.2022); Ghaffar T. US and India Sign BECA, Putting Pakistan in a Vulnerable Position // Global Village Space. October 29, 2020. URL: (accessed: 23.03.2022).

38 The Cold Start Doctrine was proposed in 2004 to expedite the deployment of Indian Army units on the border with Pakistan. According to the doctrine, the Indian Army should be able to conduct limited cross-border operations on the Indo-Pakistani border within 72 hours. See: (Ladwig III, 2008).

39 The IBGs are maneuverable self-sufficient brigade-sized combat formations of the Indian Army deployed along the border areas, capable of striking the enemy quickly in the event of hostilities. See: Decoding Integrated Battle Groups of the Indian Army // China Military Online. September 29, 2019. URL: (accessed: 23.03.2022).

40 The principle of TTTR was proposed by Chief of Army Staff in 2016—2019 General Bipin Rawat. It means that the resources allocated to each IBG will be determined by its mission, terrain, and the threat it faces. For example, an IBG operating in the desert terrain of the Indo-Pakistani border will be armed differently than an IBG in the mountainous terrain of the Indo-Chinese border. See: Unnithan S. The New Strike Strategy // India Today. October 5, 2019. URL: (accessed: 23.03.2022).

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About the authors

Rana Danish Nisar

University of Sargodha

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1354-5144

PhD (International Relations), Visiting Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Relations

Sargodha, Pakistan


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