Tue, 18 Jun 2019

New Delhi [India], Sept 18 (ANI): Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) between India and the United States is a "historic step forward" in strengthening the relationship between the two countries.

"COMCASA is a significant agreement. The significance of it can be understood from the fact that we are the only country, other than the NATO members, to have been given COMCASA to India specific COMCASA which we have agreed. No other non-NATO country has been a signatory to any COMCASA with the US," Sitharaman said while addressing media here.

"COMCASA, therefore, is a historic step forward in strengthening our relationship with the US," she added.

Signed earlier this month, COMCASA enables India access advanced US defence systems. The pact was signed following the inaugural 22 Dialogue between US Defence Secretary James N. Mattis, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, India's Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Sitharaman.

When asked about the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) MILEX 2018 and her take on Nepal not joining the exercise, Sitharaman said: "On BIMSTEC we need to have some picture of what actually is the situation. Nepal did participate, they had sent observers. Similarly, they also participated in Chinese exercises in a similar capacity. The reason why they didn't come here was because - and this something which I don't have reason to distrust, I have been told by very clearly - the Chief was appointed only recently and there were some customary engagements which are something which they take very seriously.

She added: "There could be something religious, something social, but these commitments were already made and it was for him to attend all that before he started actually taking up his assignment. I respect their feeling on that and I have no reasons to think, unfortunately, as it was projected in some sections of the media, it was not any boycott." (ANI)

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