On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, India and the US signed a landmark defence agreement, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), that will allow the sharing of high-end military technology, classified satellite data, and critical information the two countries. Both sides vowed to ramp up their security ties and boost strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific amidst China’s growing economic and military clout in the region.

The third edition of the 2+2 dialogue between the two strategic partners also boosts bilateral defence and military ties. It comes in the backdrop of India’s tense border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held the talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper. Their top military and security officials assisted both sides.

The high-level interaction assumes significance when China is attempting to expand its economic and military clout in the Info-Pacific region and is also engaged in a tense standoff with India in eastern Ladakh.

During the talks, the US side also assured India that America stands with it as they confront threats to their sovereignty and liberty.

Addressing a joint media event along with Jaishankar, Pompeo, and Esper, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the two sides held a comprehensive discussion on a range of critical issues and christened the inking of BECA with the US is a “significant move.”

“Our military-to-military cooperation with the US is moving forward very well,” he said, adding that projects for joint development of defence equipment have been identified.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region,” Singh said.

Pompeo, in his remarks, said, during the visit, they visited the war memorial to honour the soldiers that sacrificed their lives for the world’s largest democracy, including the 20 that were killed by China’s PLA forces in the Galwan Valley in June.

“The US will stand with people of India as they confront threats to their sovereignty and their liberty,” Pompeo asserted.

Slamming the Chinese Communist Party, Pompeo said the US leaders and citizens see increasing clarity that the “CCP is no friend to democracy, the rule of law and transparency.”

The US and India are taking steps to strengthen cooperation against all manners of threats and not just those posed by the CCP, Pompeo added.

Jaishankar said the Indo-US national security convergences have grown, and the Indo-Pacific was a focus of the discussion.

US Defence secretary Esper noted that the bilateral defence cooperation is continuing to grow.

The inking of the BECA completes finalisation of four key pacts between the two countries, which were crucial to significantly expanding the strategic ties.

The two countries signed a key pact called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002. The GSOMIA provides specific measures to ensure security standards for safeguarding critical information shared by the US with India.

In a significant move in 2016, the US had designated India a “Major Defence Partner,” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing to a level commensurate with its closest allies and partners.

The two countries inked the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries to use each other’s bases to repair and replenish supplies and provide for more in-depth cooperation.

India and the US signed another pact called COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides interoperability between the two militaries and provides for the sale of high-end technology from the US to India.

About BECA, officials said the agreement would give India access to classified geospatial data and critical information having significant military applications from the US.