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How will the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement deepen India-U.S. military ties?

  • 01 November, 2020

  • 8 Min Read

How will the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement deepen India-U.S. military ties?

Context

  • India and the U.S. signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) during the third 2+2 dialogue of defence and foreign ministers of the two countries.
  • This is the fourth and the last of the foundational agreements that both countries have concluded, starting with GSOMIA (General Security of Military Information Agreement) in 2002, LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) in 2016, COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018, and now BECA.

What are foundational agreements?

  • The United States enters into what are called ‘foundational or enabling agreements’ with its defence partners.
  • These agreements govern the nature and scope of U.S. defence partnerships.
  • Partners enhance the capabilities of the U.S. military in distant places through sharing information, platforms and logistics.
  • The competitive advantage of the U.S. military is maintained primarily by the advanced technologies that the country develops continuously.
  • The U.S. sells military equipment to other countries with strict control over their deployment and use.
  • For instance, consider the B777-300ER aircraft that India bought from Boeing recently for the use of VVIPs.
  • The sale of advanced communication and security systems on the aircraft — which are not commercially available — is made seamless by foundational agreements.
  • The U.S. is also eager to advance ‘interoperability’ with defence forces of the countries that are its defence partners.
  • Interoperability involves real-time coordination of forces.
  • The U.S. has signed these foundational agreements with at least 100 countries, which mostly follow a standard text.
  • Country-specific changes were made in India’s case in all four foundational agreements.

What do these agreements do?

  • The General Security of Military Information Agreement or GSOMIA, and its extension, the Information Security Annex (ISA) signed in 2019, allow military technology cooperation for the sharing of classified information between governments and companies in both countries.
  • The LEMOA enables logistics support, say refuelling of planes or ships, supply of spare parts or maintenance to each other.
    • For instance, U.S. Navy’s P8 aircraft landed in Port Blair last month for refuelling, under LEMOA.
  • The COMCASA allows Indian forces to procure advanced, secure communication equipment from the U.S.
  • Such equipment was earlier denied for U.S. origin platforms such as C-17, C-130, and commercial systems were used in their place.
    • Only after COMCASA was signed were the encrypted systems provided to India.
  • The BECA enables exchange of geospatial information.
    • Akin to a GPS that enables navigation, such exchange of geospatial information enhances the accuracy of a missile or the utility of a drone.

What is the strategic importance of these agreements?

  • Since the Civil Nuclear Agreement of 2005, the India-U.S. defence cooperation has been advancing at a rapid pace.
  • The U.S. has relaxed restrictions on technology trade in India’s favour considerably, and India is designated a ‘Major Defence Partner’.
  • Foundational agreements deepen defence cooperation, in trade and operation.
  • India and the U.S. are also part of a broader shared vision for the Indo-Pacific region, where both countries, along with Japan and Australia, are increasing their military cooperation.
  • U.S.-built platforms used by partner countries can talk to one another and share operational information.

Are there any concerns?

  • Critics worry that tying itself too closely with the U.S. may limit India’s choices.
  • The evolution of technology makes it inevitable that all military platforms will be integrated and networked in the future.
  • The U.S. is very particular about the integrity of its networks, and pressure could mount on India to remain firmly in its camp.
  • The U.S. is particularly irked by India’s continuing defence cooperation with Russia.
  • India will be taking the delivery of Russian S-400 missile defence system next year, ignoring American objections.
  • The U.S. could respond with sanctions. At any rate, it will not be possible to integrate Russian and American platforms, and this could throw up new challenges of military planning for India.

 

Source: TH

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