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‘India-US Defence Deals’

  • Category
    India & world
  • Published
    26th Oct, 2020

At 2+2 meeting, the two countries will look to push intelligence sharing pact BECA.

Context

At 2+2 meeting, the two countries will look to push intelligence sharing pact BECA. With key deals LEMOA and COMCASA already signed, what does it mean for defence, particularly in light of LAC standoff?

Background

  • Items on the agenda will be the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) — a pact with deep military implications.
  • Till now, agreements known as LEMOA and COMCASA are signed.
  • Now, with BECA, these have been dubbed the troika of foundational pacts — essentially laying the foundation for deeper military cooperation.

Analysis

What is BECA?

  • The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement largely pertain to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence.
  • Anyone who sails a ship, flies an aircraft, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cell phone relies on geospatial intelligence.
  • Signing BECA will allow India to use the US’s advanced geospatial intelligence and enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones.
  • It will give access to topographical and aeronautical data and products that will aid navigation and targeting.
  • BECA will provide Indian military systems with a high-quality GPS to navigate and missiles with real-time intelligence to precisely target the adversary.
  • This could be key for Air Force-to-Air Force cooperation.

The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)

  • The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement was signed between India and the US in 2016.
  • It allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases: access supplies, spare parts and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
  • This is extremely useful for Navy-to-Navy cooperation, since the US and India are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.

The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) 

  • The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement was signed in 2018.
  • It allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war.
  • COMCASA paved the way for transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India to facilitate “interoperability” between their forces — and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.
  1. LEMOA means one partner trusts the other enough to expose its valuable assets.
  2. COMCASA means one is confident that it can rely on encrypted systems to connect the two militaries.
  3. BECA means it can share highly classified information in real time without fear of being compromised.

What is its effect on the recent stand-off on the India-China Border?

  • Amid the longest stand-off on the India-China border in three decades, India and the US have intensified under-the-radar intelligence and military cooperation at an unprecedented level, especially since June.
  • The cooperation includes sharing of high-end satellite images, telephone intercepts, and data sharing of Chinese troops and weapons deployment along the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • The Indian defence establishment also has enhanced capability with some American equipment. The armed forces have used at least five American platforms at the LAC which are:
    • C-17 Globemaster III for military transport
    • Boeing’s Chinook CH-47 as heavy-lift helicopters
    • Boeing’s Apache as tank-killers
    • P-8I Poseidon for overland reconnaissance
    • Lockheed Martin’s C-130J for airlifting troops.

Challenges in India-US relations

  • Trade has been a major bone of contention between India and the US. India has been referred by the US, as “tariff king” that imposes “tremendously high” import duties.
  • Removal from the GSP list amidst rising trade tensions prompted India to finally impose retaliatory tariffs on several American imports. This made the US approach the WTO against India.
  • US have softened its position on Pakistan in the last seven months, due to the role Pakistan can play in the Afghan deal (between the US and the Taliban).
  • India-US strong strategic partnership is also based on an idea of “shared values” of democracy, rule of law, religious freedom and protection of minorities. However, the revocation of Article 370, the new citizenship law and the NRC is testing this “shared values” principle.

Convergence in Indo-US relations

  • A foundational military agreement that allows for the sharing of encrypted communications and equipment (COMCASA- Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement).
  • A change in U.S. export control laws that places India in a privileged category of NATO and non-NATO U.S. allies.
  • The signing of an Industrial Security Annex that will allow for greater collaboration among the two countries’ private defence industries.
  • A new ‘2+2’ foreign and defence ministers dialogue.
  • The bilateral Strategic Energy Partnership was launched in April 2018 under which India has started importing crude and LNG from the US. Now, the US is India’s sixth-largest source of crude oil imports and hydrocarbons.
  • Inauguration of the first India-US tri-service military exercise and expansion of existing military exercises.
  • Inclusion of India and South Asia in the US Maritime Security Initiative.
  • The US under its Pivot to Asia policy views India as an ideal balancer to check the aggressive rise of China. Therefore, the US has formulated the concept of Indo-Pacific to counter China in the South China Sea and the Indian ocean.
  • The US has designated India as an integral part of the Indo-pacific narrative by the conception of Quad.

Way forward

  • Chinese aggressive behaviour being the clear and present danger, New Delhi’s strategic embrace of Washington is the obvious outcome. Every administration in the last 20 years has left the Indo-US relationship in a better shape than how they inherited it.
  • In order to counter China in the maritime domain, India needs to fully engage with the US and other partners in the Indo-pacific region, in order to preserve the freedom of navigation and the rules-based order.
  • India-US relation remains critical for the shaping of world order in the 21st century. In order to realise the full potential of relations, the two governments must now strive to complete the unfinished agreements and set the course for a Comprehensive Strategic Global Partnership.

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