India, US sign BECA agreement: What is BECA Agreement, how will it help India?
The BECA agreement will provide the militaries of the two nations with access to extremely accurate geo-spatial data, high-end military technology and classified satellite data on defence-related issues.
India and the United States signed the BECA Agreement (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation) during the third round of 2+2 Ministerial dialogue on October 27, 2020.
The BECA agreement will provide the militaries of the two nations with access to extremely accurate geo-spatial data, high-end military technology and classified satellite data on defence-related issues. The agreement will help in improving the accuracy of the missile systems of India.
The announcement was made after a meeting between Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his US Counterpart Mark Esper, who is visiting India for the India-US 2+2 dialogue along with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
I met Dr Esper yesterday to discuss bilateral defence issues. We continued our discussions on larger regional and global perspective today over the 2+2. Signing of BECA today after signing of LEMOA in 2016 and COMCASA in 2018 is a significant achievement in that direction.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) October 27, 2020
What is BECA agreement?
• The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geo-spatial cooperation is primarily a communication agreement proposed between the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency of the US Department of Defence and the Union Ministry of Defence.
• The agreement will allow India and the US to exchange important military information such as advanced satellite and topographic data including maps, nautical and aeronautical charts and geophysical, geodetic, geomagnetic and gravity data.
• Most of the information exchanged will be unclassified and it will be shared in either digital or printed format. BECA agreement also includes the provision of sharing classified information as well, with proper safeguards to ensure that it is not shared with any third party.
• BECA is the last of the four foundational agreements signed between India and the US for strengthening defence ties. The other three agreements include:
1. General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002. A follow-up extension agreement - Industrial Security Annex (ISA)- was signed in 2019.
2. The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016.
3. The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018.
• These agreements covered areas including security and military information, compatibility and security and logistics exchange and communications. BECA aims to enhance the geospatial cooperation between India and the US.
How will the BECA agreement help India?
Under the BECA agreement, the US armed forces will provide advanced navigational aids and avionics and share geospatial intelligence with India that will help boost the accuracy of Indian military's automated hardware systems and weapons such as drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
The data procured under the agreement will be relevant for India's northern and western borders, which will be crucial given the current geopolitical situation.
How will it impact China?
• The BECA agreement will help India and the US in countering China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
• The two QUAD partners have also been focused on increasing engagement with their other two QUAD partners- Australia and Japan. Australia has also been included in the Malabar war games that will be held next month near Indian waters. With this, the Malabar military exercise will now see participation from all four QUAD nations.
• The BECA agreement will also help narrow India's military gap with China in the wake of India-China border tensions. India and China have been engaged in a border standoff since April-May after the Chinese PLA (People's Liberation Army) transgressed into multiple areas into the Indian territory.
The BECA agreement has been under negotiations between India and the US for over a decade, as the previous UPA government was concerned about whether it would impact India’s national security, as, under the bilateral agreement, India will also be expected to share similar data with the United States. The agreement is one of the few basic deals that the United States signs with its close partners.