India, US gear up to share maritime military intel – Times of India

NEW DELHI: India and the US are gearing up to actively share maritime military intelligence through a recently concluded pact, even as New Delhi has also inked ‘white shipping’ agreements with 21 countries to enhance “situational awareness” in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
The bilateral pact, called the Maritime Information Sharing Technical Arrangement (MISTA) lays down the protocols for the exchange of intelligence in real time, and will significantly enhance the level of cooperation between the Indian and US navies, sources said.
The ‘white shipping’ pacts, operationalised with countries ranging from the US, UK, France and Australia to Brazil, Israel, Vietnam, Oman and Mauritius, primarily involve dynamic exchange of information on merchant ships traversing the high seas.
No country can do it all alone. Well over 100,000 ships transit through the IOR annually, for instance, accounting for 66% of the world’s oil, 33% of bulk cargo and 50% of container shipments.
MISTA is about the military domain. With the IOR also becoming heavily militarised, India is particularly concerned about the ever-expanding Chinese naval forays into what it considers its own strategic backyard.
“A comprehensive maritime domain awareness through a collaborative effort among like-minded countries is key to detecting, deterring and defeating conventional and unconventional threats in the IOR,” a source said.
“India plans to stitch up ‘white shipping’ pacts with 36 countries and three multi-national constructs. The MISTA with the US goes well beyond these pacts. A tool for two-way connectivity, it will make intelligence flow between the two navies smoother,” he added.
MISTA was concluded along with the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Cooperation (BECA)during the ‘two-plus-two’ dialogue between India and the US in October, as was then reported by TOI.
BECA, the fourth and final foundational agreement to be inked with the US, will allow India to get access to advanced US satellite imagery, topographical and aeronautical digital data to enhance the accuracy of its missiles and armed drones as well as long-range navigation of military aircraft.
India had earlier inked the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with the US in 2002, which was followed by the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016, and then the Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement (COMCASA) in 2018.
“Information is a critical building block towards ensuring comprehensive maritime security,” Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh said last week. Towards this end, the Information Fusion Centre-IOR in Gurgaon, which was commissioned in 2018, has established itself as the “hub of maritime security information” in the IOR. “International liaison officers from 13 countries have been invited to join the centre. Three have already joined, with three more likely to join shortly,” he said.

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