India – US Defence agreements

Context: India and the US are preparing for the third 2+2 ministerial meeting between External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister, and US Secretary of State and Defense Secretary in New Delhi.

More on news:

  • In the last two meetings, agreements known as LEMOA and COMCASA were signed. Next item on the agenda is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) which is a pact with deep military implications.
  • There are 3 which Foundational agreements which the U.S. signs with countries with which it has close military ties. Those 3 agreements are: (1) Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), (2)Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and (3)Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
  • These Foundational agreements build the basic groundwork and promote interoperability between militaries by creating common standards and systems. Sale and transfer of high-end technologies are also guided by  these agreements.

What is BECA?

  • The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement mainly refers to an agreement on the sharing of geospatial intelligence, information on maps and satellite images for defence.
    • According to officials, anyone who sails a ship, flies an aircraft, fights wars, locates targets, responds to natural disasters, or even navigates with a cellphone 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.
  • BECA will provide Indian military systems with a high-quality GPS to navigate and missiles with real-time intelligence to precisely target the enemy.
  • This could be a key for Air Force-to-Air Force cooperation as India and the US have stepped up efforts to sign the pact during the upcoming 2+2.

What are the other two agreements about?

  • LEMOA: The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement was signed between India and the US in August 2016 and it allows the military of each country to restock 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 compensated.
    • This is extremely useful for Navy-to-Navy cooperation, since the US and India are cooperating closely in the Indo-Pacific.
  • COMCASA: The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement was signed in September 2018, after the first 2+2 dialogue in the US.
    • 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 enable interaction between their forces and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secure data links.

What do these three pacts put together mean?

  • LEMOA means one partner trusts the other enough to expose its valuable assets.
  • COMCASA means one is confident that it can rely on encrypted systems to connect the two militaries.
  • BECA means it can share highly classified information in real time without fear of being compromised.
  • All this signals the level of trust that has developed between the two countries and their militaries.

What is the significance of the India-USA pacts?

  • Amid the stand-off, India and the US have increased under-the-radar intelligence and military cooperation at an extraordinary level, 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 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
  • The US wants India to move away from Russian equipment and platforms, as it feels this may expose its technology and information to Moscow.
  • India is going ahead with the purchase of the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia, and this has been a spiking point for American panellists.
    • India is cautious of Pakistan’s deep-rooted ties with Pentagon, and Washington’s dependence on Rawalpindi for access to Afghanistan as well as its exit strategy.

Way forward

  • Every administration in the last 20 years have left the Indo-US relationship in a better shape than how they inherited it and efforts should be made to continue this.
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