The third annual US-India 2+2 ministerial dialogue was held in New Delhi on October 27. The most significant result of the visit was the signing of the crucial Indo-US Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which concerns geospatial intelligence, sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence purposes.
The US delegation was led by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper who were hosted by the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs S Jaishankar.
"We held a comprehensive discussion on a range of key issues: Inking of BECA with the US a significant move. Our military to military cooperation with the US moving forward very well. We identified projects for the joint development of defence equipment. We reaffirmed our commitment to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday.
What Is BECA, Why Is It Crucial?
- BECA or Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement will allow India to get access to precision data and topographical images from the United States military satellites, on a real-time basis. The signing of the long-negotiated defence pact comes in the backdrop of tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
- BECA is the fourth and final "foundational" understanding the US has with India. 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 facilitate secure communications.
- Under BECA, India and the US can exchange maps, nautical and aeronautical charts, commercial and several unclassified imageries, geomagnetic and gravity data.
- The agreement will enable the US to share sensitive satellite and sensor data that would help India in striking military targets with accuracy. In case of any airstrike in the future, India will be able to obtain satellite and data from the US to verify the success of its targets.
- India will also be able to keep an eye on movements of the Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean.
The UPA government had earlier raised concerns over BECA alleging concerns on protection of classified information and access to classified laboratories in India. However, the Centre said that these concerns have been addressed during the bilateral talks.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said that the increasing defence and security partnership between India and the US will monitor the situation in the Indo-Pacific at a time when "China is attempting to expand its economic and military clout in the region."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "We stand with India to deal with threats to its sovereignty."