By Sri Krishna
New Delhi: In a major boost to Indo-US defence relations, the two countries on October 27 signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) completing the four key defence agreements. This enables India to gain access to precision data and topographical images – on a real time basis – from United States military satellites.
BECA was signed at the fourth 2+2 dialogue between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with their US counterparts Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The two countries have already signed General Security of Military Information Agreement (2002), Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (2016), Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (2018) to exchange military logistics and enable secure communications.
Under BECA, the two countries can exchange maps, nautical and aeronautical charts, commercial and other unclassified imagery, geophysical, geomagnetic and gravity data.
It would also allow the US to share sensitive satellite and sensor data that would help India in striking military targets with pinpoint accuracy.
As Pompeo said that US “stands with India to deal with threats to its sovereignty. We are strengthening ties to deal with overall security threats not just those posed by Chinese Communist Party. India, US can cooperate on defeating Wuhan-originated virus, threats from Chinese Communist Party.”
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said discussions also covered developments in neighbouring countries and India made it clear that cross border terrorism is completely unacceptable.
In his statement, Jaishankar said “the Indo Pacific region was the particular focus of our talks. We reiterated the importance of stability and peace, and prosperity for all countries in this region.”
Esper said “as the world confronts a global pandemic and growing security challenges, the India-US partnership is more important than ever to ensure security, stability and prosperity of the region and the world,” and that the two countries stood shoulder to shoulder for a free Indo-Pacific, particularly in view of China’s growing aggression.
He said India-US partnership more important than ever in view of growing security challenges.
In his statement, Singh said the two sides had comprehensive discussions on key aspects of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. and considered the major challenges faced by them.
“The need for quick economic recovery and growth, prevention of the Pandemic, rebuild the global supply chains and related issues received obvious priority in our discussions,” Singh said.
The Defence Minister said that the two sides also explored probable capacity building and other joint cooperation activities in third countries, including the neighbourhood and beyond. “We have convergence of views on a number of such proposals and will take those forward,” he said.
“In the Defence Industrial Cooperation area, we had a very candid and useful discussion. Recent initiative of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in Defence sector was underlined as a key driver and a guiding factor of our Defence Industrial Cooperation.
I highlighted the capabilities of Indian Defence Industry and their usefulness in the supply chain of major US platforms and systems. We have identified priority Near-Term projects for joint development between respective agencies, which need to be fast tracked under the DTTI and resolved to work together in Defence R&D more efficiently,” Singh said.
“In our meeting, we shared assessment of the security situation across the Indo Pacific. In that process, we reaffirmed our commitment to peace, stability and prosperity of all countries in this region. We also agreed that upholding the rules based international order, respecting the rule of law and freedom of navigation in the international seas and upholding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states are essential.
Our defence cooperation is intended to further these objectives. Both sides welcomed Australia joining the forthcoming Malabar Exercise,” he said.
Pompeo and Esper had meeting with the National Secretary Advisor Ajit Doval and also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
-The writer is a senior journalist and media consultant