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Explained: Know about BECA, the US pact that gives India more eyes in the sky

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Explained: Know about BECA, the US pact that gives India more eyes in the sky

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BECA had been under discussion since the last decade. Still, it was blocked by the UPA government over concerns raised by the security forces on the protection of classified information and access to classified laboratories in India.

Explained: Know about BECA, the US pact that gives India more eyes in the sky
India and the US have signed an agreement for geospatial cooperation. The pact will enable both countries to share military information and strengthen their defence ties.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary Mark Esper arrived in India for the two-plus-two Ministerial-level meeting yesterday, October 26, and the talks are currently underway at Hyderabad House.
The US ministers are joined by India External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
In the meeting, both the sides highlighted the need to take forward shared objectives and build capabilities across all domains to ensure a safe, stable and rule-based regional and global security environment.
At the meeting, Dr S. Jaishankar said, “At a time when it is particularly important to uphold a rules-based international order, the ability of India and the US to work closely in defence and foreign policy has a larger resonance.”
Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement
Over the last fifteen years, India and US have signed several enabling agreements which allow greater interoperability between the two forces. Now the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) will enable the US to share crucial, unclassified satellite imagery and maps with the Indian defense forces. This will give us a sense of missile and military deployments in the region.
It has been under discussion from the past two years and today the two sides Mark Esper the US Secretary of Defense and Rajnath Singh, the Indian Defense Minister signed it.
The countries would have access to exchange maps, nautical and aeronautical charts, commercial and other unclassified imagery, geodetic, geophysical, geomagnetic, and gravity data.
Both sides have also agreed on appointing two more laser officers on counter-terrorism cooperation, and we are expecting the announcement today.
Significance
Even though it is a two-way agreement, India would reap its higher advantages as it gets access to military-grade data to draw up the target coordinates.
The data would be useful for long-range navigation and missile-targeting with enhanced accuracy. Given the current geopolitical situations in India, this newly acquired data can prove to be beneficial on both the northern and western borders of India,  as explained by Captain Vikram Mahajan (Retd), Director of Aerospace and Defence at USISPF to ET.
India is also expected to share similar data with the US.
Two-plus-two dialogues 
Two-plus-two dialogues are a bilateral meeting of the defense and foreign ministers or secretaries of India and the US.
The format is derived from Japan with the objective to facilitate high-level diplomatic and political engagement for promoting defense and security promotions.
President Trump and Prime Minister Modi announced the 2+2 Foreign and Defense Minster’s dialogue in their first meeting in 2017. The dialogue served to replace the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between the foreign and commerce ministers of the countries that were conducted during the Obama administration.
The US holds these dialogues with only India, Japan, and Australia.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, “Today is a great opportunity for two great democracies to grow closer. We have a lot to discuss today-to cooperate amid pandemic, to confront the Chinese Communist party’s threats to security & freedom, to promote peace & stability in the region.”
Some key points of the dialogue
The meeting is followed by the Quad Meet of Foreign Ministers of Australia, Japan, the US, and India. China has previously expressed concerns on the Quad Meet since the increased cooperation among the four countries threatens its ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.
Other key points of the dialogue:
  • COVID-19
  • pandemic cooperation
  • vaccine development
  • economic cooperation
  • Defense sales
  • South China Sea
  • Issues in Eastern Ladakh
  • Quad relationship - how to strengthen and make this body more influential.
  • Conclusion
    India has signed General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002, Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016, Communications, Compatibility, and Security Arrangement (COMCASA) in 2018 with the US.
    BECA had been under discussion since the last decade. Still, it was blocked by the UPA government over concerns raised by the security forces on the protection of classified information and access to classified laboratories in India.
    Over time, as Delhi and Washington's trust levels alleviated, those concerns were also eased through multiple round of talks.
    Ahead of the Tuesday’s dialogue, both Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts.
    Both sides deliberated on the Afghan peace process, sources said, adding Jaishankar highlighted India’s stakes and its continuing concern that decisions should be made by people in Afghanistan without the use of force. The Indian side also conveyed to the US that cross-border terrorism was completely unacceptable to New Delhi, they said.
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