India will gain access to precision data and topographical images – on a real time basis – from United States military satellites under an agreement to be signed during the ongoing visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper.
The agreement to share this data – BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) – is the third and final “foundational” understanding the US has with close international partners. The two countries have already signed agreements to exchange military logistics and enable secure communications.
In a statement released on Monday the government said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his American counterpart, Mr Esper, expressed satisfaction that BECA would be signed during this visit and also at the close engagements between the armed forces of the two countries.
They also reviewed bilateral defence spanning military-to-military cooperation, secure communications systems and information sharing, and also discussed potential new areas of cooperation.
Rajnath Singh said the talks would add “new vigour” to India-US defence relations and cooperation.
Mr Esper also welcomed Australia’s participation in next month’s Malabar exercise – a series of annual drills that began in 1992 to reinforce cooperation between Indian and American naval forces.
India, with the US, Japan and Australia will hold the high-level Malabar naval exercise next month. Australia is returning to these exercises for the first time since 2007 when its participation drew criticism from China.
Last week, the US said it was watching the India-China standoff in Ladakh closely and sharing information with Delhi. The US said it wanted to ensure that the situation did not escalate.
Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper are in India for the third edition of the 2+2 talks with their Indian counterparts – Rajnath Singh and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar. These dialogues come days before the US votes in national polls, with President Donald Trump bidding for re-election.
Ahead of the talks, which are scheduled to start on Tuesday and will include discussions on regional security cooperation, military-to-military interaction and defence trade, the US State Department said it welcomed India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power.
The first 2+2 talks were held in Delhi in September 2018 and the second in Washington, D.C. in 2019.