‘System allows several countries to talk together’

Although the Australian Navy is, at present, “hanging off” COMCASA — India’s secure communications agreement with the U.S. — Australia and India are “moving forward” toward a classified-level communications environment, a senior Australian Navy spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said COMCASA (the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) was a “major step forward”, especially for interactions between navies of two countries that are restricted to the classified environment, for example conversations on counter-terrorism.

“Now we’ll see India moving to classified communications environment that one would see, for instance, in the Combined Task Force 150, 151 and 152 operations [relating to counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and maritime security], where there’s a bunch of like-minded countries that have a communications system that is operating at the classified level, to be able to allow them to talk together,” the official said.

At the present juncture, communication in an unclassified environment is part of an age-old tradition of ships meeting on the high seas, the spokesperson added, though even in that space, there has recently been an “evolution of authority to Indian Navy ships’ commanding officers to be able to do passage exercises”.

Australian officials said that for a basic exchange of pleasantries and identity, and then doing “some things together”, Indian Navy commanding officers no longer must go back to New Delhi to get authority.

This could even be for conducting an “exercise, in a simple set of manoeuvres, or some gunnery,” an officer said.