Article by Shantanu K. Bansal
On October 26, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, defence secretary Mark Esper arrived in India. Soon after their arrival the Raksha Mantralaya made a press release clarifying that India is going to sign the BECA with the US.
The Basic-Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) is considered as final part of 4 basic agreements that the United States (US) signs with countries with which it shares close relationship allowing interoperability and classified information sharing with the partner country. The Pentagon describes the agreements as “routine instruments that the US uses to promote military cooperation with partner-nations”.
The first agreement in the row was the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is for information safety, was signed in 2002. An extension to the GSOMIA, the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) was signed at the 2+2 dialogue in 2019. These agreements provide a framework for exchange and protection of classified military information between the U.S. and Indian defence industries. The GSOMIA was limited to public companies of both the countries but signing ISA allowed both public and private companies.
Second was the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) which was signed in 2016. It permits the militaries to use each other’s bases for resupply and repairs, which also include offshore support. India signed a modified version of the same called the Logistic Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA). The LEMOA does not make the provision of logistic support binding on either country and requires individual clearance for each request
Thirdly, the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (COMCASA) which is an India-specific version of the standard Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) signed with other countries. Valid for 10 years, the COMCASA (signed in 2018) aims to provide a legal framework for the transfer of highly sensitive communication security equipment from the US to India that will streamline and facilitate interoperability between their armed forces.
The BECA, fourth and the last one remaining was signed today. Under BECA, the two countries can exchange maps, nautical and aeronautical charts, commercial and other unclassified imagery, geophysical, geomagnetic and gravity data. BECA will give India access to classified geo-spatial data as well as critical information having significant military applications. For E.g. target acquisition for cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and fighters etc. With this India will be able to keep a close watch on the movements of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean.
The 2+2 dialogue initiated between US and India immensely helped in taking these agreements to a logical conclusion with extensive discussions taken-up by the special representatives in the course of formulation of this agreement.