India and the United States will sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement, or BECA for sharing sensitive information and precision data, during the third edition of “2+2” ministerial dialogue on Tuesday, the defence ministry said.
The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement largely pertains to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence. Signing BECA would allow India to use advanced American geospatial intelligence and enhance the accuracy of its automated systems and weapons such as missiles and armed drones, according to The Indian Express.
In a statement on Monday, the Indian defence ministry said that Union Minister Rajnath Singh and his American counterpart Mark Esper on Monday expressed satisfaction that the BECA will be signed during the visit.
“The two ministers reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning military to military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues and also discussed ways to take bilateral cooperation forward,” the statement added.
Esper also welcomed Australia’s participation in next month’s Malabar exercise, the Indian government said. The Malabar exercises began in 1992 as a bilateral drill between India and the US.
BECA is considered as the last of the foundational agreements to be signed by India and the US, according to the Hindustan Times. The two sides have been sharing real-time intelligence under the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, or COMCASA, which was signed in 2018. They also signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002, and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016.
LEMOA allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases by accessing supplies, spare parts and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports. COMCASA, meanwhile, allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks.
Esper and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are visiting India for the third edition of the 2+2 ministerial talks with their Indian counterparts – Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Singh. They will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
‘Productive meeting with Pompeo’: S Jaishankar
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said he held a “warm and productive” meeting with Pompeo. In a tweet, Jaishankar said the two leaders discussed key bilateral, regional and global issues.
The two sides also reviewed the progress made in bilateral relations, the Indian foreign minister said, adding that ties between the counties have “grown substantially in every domain”. “Our foreign policy consultations and cooperation have expanded,” he added. “Working closely on plurilateral and multilateral formats.”
Jaishankar added that he was looking forward to the “2+2 Dialogue” on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Singh said the dialogue would add “new vigour” to India-US defence relations and cooperation. “Our talks today were fruitful, aimed at further deepening defence cooperation in a wide range of areas,” he tweeted.
Esper and Pompeo were accorded the Guard of Honour at the South Block upon their arrival in the country on Monday.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane, Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria and Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh were also present at the meeting.
The agenda for the dialogues include regional security cooperation, defence information sharing, military-to-military interactions and defence trade. The two sides had agreed during Modi’s visit to Washington DC in June 2017 to hold discussions in this new format. The first two 2+2 talks were held in New Delhi in September 2018 and Washington DC in 2019.