As soon as India’s spymaster Ajit Doval heard CIA would be getting Gina Haspel as the new boss, he flew to Washington and met her to assure her of New Delhi ‘being a fairly useful ally of Americans’

As soon as he heard that the world’s biggest foreign intelligence agency would be getting a new boss, India’s own spymaster Ajit Doval flew to Washington and arranged a meeting with her.

Yes, it is a woman, the first ever female to head the CIA. On Monday, Gina Haspel was sworn-in as the new Director at the agency’s Langley headquarters in Washington in an impressive ceremony in the presence of the US President.

But Doval, India’s National Security Adviser, had already met her weeks before her confirmation. Under the present strategic partnership between India and United States, New Delhi considers itself a fairly useful ally of the Americans especially in the shadowy world of espionage and intelligence sharing.

The relationship is described in official statements as a “deeper security partnership” – with the stated objective of countering China's growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

The details of what this implies is obviously shrouded in secrecy but the assumption is that Doval was keen to assure the new Director – even though her confirmation process was still uncertain at that time – that New Delhi can be trusted as a reliable ally at all levels not only in regard to the Pacific region but also South Asia where India has tremendous Geo-political stakes.

The CIA on its part views its role in this part of the globe as closely monitoring the world's two most populous nations, India and China, as they continue to compete for influence across the Asian continent.

During his Washington visit, Ajit Doval also met with his American counterpart, HR McMaster, as well as the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo (who was at that time about to be shifted as CIA Director to be replaced by incoming Director Gina Haspel).
Analysts predict that if India does end up signing and implementing COMCASA and BECA later this year, the Indian and US militaries will be able to greatly increase their inter-operability
Officially, the purpose of Doval's visit was to lay the groundwork for the first-ever dialogue between Indian and US foreign and defence ministers, which was originally scheduled for April 18 but which was delayed because Pompeo's confirmation as Secretary of State was taking time.

However, two preparatory defence agreements are said to have been discussed. The first is called the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and involves sharing encrypted technology and secure communications between the two countries' militaries. The second is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which would enable Washington to share geospatial intelligence with New Delhi.

These are being considered significant and precedent-breaking. Till now, previous Indian governments had always sought to maintain strategic military autonomy and reluctant to go in for too close an alliance with major western powers.

Earlier policymakers were wary of any agreements that could be perceived as compromising this ethos. Negotiations continued for over a decade before a foundational US-India defence pact was finally signed in August 2016. According to experts, that document, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, allows for logistics sharing between the Indian and American militaries on a case-by-case basis.

Now, however, the signals are that India is ready and willing to go on the fast track with discussions on the new agreements. The Modi government is reportedly satisfied with the way that Washington has so far addressed concerns about Indian military autonomy, though no details have been released on the matter. Ajit Doval has played a role in giving a push in this direction.

Analysts predict that if India does end up signing and implementing COMCASA and BECA later this year, the Indian and US militaries will be able to greatly increase their inter-operability. The signing would also indicate a shift in India's approach to its own strategic autonomy doctrine.

So far, there is only limited information about the progress of the two defence agreements, and there are many details left to address. But the United States and India share a strong desire to counter China's maritime expansion, which they both view as a threat to their energy and trade routes in the Indian and Pacific oceans. And this mutual interest will likely encourage cooperation, despite the risks it may raise.

Who is Gina Haspel?

Incidentally, Gina Haspel had a hard time getting the approval for her appointment from the House of Congress and the Senate. Partisan disputes in American politis are at a height. The ruling Republicans insisted that she was “the right person to lead the CIA” due to her “historic and distinguished career at the highest levels” of the agency and despite her reputation as a tough woman who had sanctioned extreme torture in the past.

The Democrats opposed her tooth and nail because they felt the enhanced interrogation program she oversaw was too tough on terrorists including like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11.

Ultimately, Haspel was confirmed and the view was along these line -She has 30-plus years of experience in the intelligence community. Her extreme interrogations methods were legal under American law and had led to the saving of lives. Her own integrity or her personal morals had never been questioned. She was just doing her job.

Gina Haspel has had a very impressive career, although much of the details are classified information. Currently 61 years old, she first joined the CIA when she was just 29 and has worked there ever since. She was sent on several undercover assignments abroad and was CIA station chief in a many overseas locations.

Her known field assignments include Ethiopia, Turkey, Europe and even Azerbaijan. In 2001 she was made Deputy Chief of Counter-terrorism and supervised a secret CIA prison in Thailand where suspected Al-Qaeda operatives were kept. Later she served as the CIA's station chief London and also New York.