Oct 28, 2020

News | Politics | Asia: India will get access to U.S. satellite data that can make military missiles more precise

 

Saheli Roy Choudhury


Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomes US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper to a Tri-Services Guard of Honour at South Block Lawns on October 26, 2020 in New Delhi, India.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomes US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper to a Tri-Services Guard of Honour at South Block Lawns on October 26, 2020 in New Delhi, India.

Raj K Raj | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

The United States and India reaffirmed their defense and security partnership on Tuesday and signed an agreement allowing New Delhi to access U.S. satellite data crucial for targeting missiles and other military assets.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh announced the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in New Delhi between the two countries.

The U.S.-India partnership is more important than ever for regional security and stability, according to Esper. “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific for all, particularly in light of increasing aggression and destabilizing activities by China,” he said in remarks shared by the State Department.

Esper, along with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was in India to meet Singh and India’s external affairs minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, for the U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.

Pompeo described the Chinese Communist Party as “no friend to democracy” in remarks shared by the State Department.

Separately, he said in an interview with Indian media Times Now, that the agreements between the U.S. and India underscore an understanding that there is a “battle” between freedom and authoritarianism.

“India, like the United States, has chosen democracy and freedom and sovereignty and all the things that the people of India care so deeply about,” Pompeo said according to a Oct. 27 State Department transcript of the interview.

“So when confronted by tyranny by the Chinese Communist Party, you can be sure that the United States will stand alongside its partners,” Pompeo added.

The U.S. comments triggered an angry response from Beijing.

The Chinese embassy in India said in a statement that “Pompeo and other senior official repeated old lies, attacked and made allegations against China, violated the norms of international relations and basic principles of diplomacy, instigated China’s relations with other countries in the region.”

“We urge the US side to respect facts and truth, abandon the Cold War and the zero-sum mentality, stop hyping up the so-called ‘China threat’, and stop the wrong actions that undermine regional peace and stability,” the embassy said.

U.S.-India defense pacts

BECA is the last of four foundational defense agreements between the two countries. The United States typically signs such agreements with its close allies that allow for the exchange of sensitive and classified information.

The U.S. and India have already signed three previous pacts to further cooperation around military logistics and communications:

1. General Security of Military Information Agreement in 2002;
2. Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement in 2016;
3. Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement in 2018.

Under the BECA agreement, India will have access to a range of topographical, nautical and aeronautical data that are seen as vital for targeting missiles and armed drones, Reuters reported. It will also allow the U.S. to provide advanced navigational aids and electronic systems for aviation on U.S.-supplied aircraft to India, the news wire said, citing an Indian defense source.

To sum it up, our military-to-military cooperation is progressing very well.

Rajnath Singh

India’s minister of defense

Singh said the positioning of a U.S. Navy liaison officer in the Indian navy’s information sharing hub — the Indian Fusion Center-Indian Ocean Region — and the placement of an Indian liaison officer at the United States Naval Forces Central Command Bahrain could be “leveraged to enhance our information-sharing architecture.”

“To sum it up, our military-to-military cooperation is progressing very well,” Singh added.

Both the U.S. and India are set to participate next month in the Malabar naval exercises in the Indian Ocean along with Japan and Australia.

New Delhi had previously resisted the idea of including Australia in the joint-exercises out of concern over provoking Beijing but India’s relationship with China has deteriorated in recent months over tense border clashes in the Himalayas that killed 20 Indian soldiers.

The four countries have an informal strategic dialogue between them known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, commonly referred to as the “Quad.” While it is described as a collective effort to advance a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, some experts say its existence is seen as a potential deterrent to China’s growing presence in the region.

“India’s recent decision to include Australia in the upcoming Malabar Naval Exercise alongside American, Indian, and Japanese forces reflects an acknowledgement of the importance of working multilaterally together to address global challenges,” Esper said on Tuesday.

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