India and the United States on Tuesday (October 27) signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which, along with the two agreements signed earlier — the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) — completes the defence pact that we wanted to be a part of with the USA. So lets examine these one by one.
Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)
BECA will help India get real-time access to American geospatial intelligence that will enhance the accuracy of automated systems and weapons like airplanes, ships, missiles and armed drones. Through the sharing of information on maps and satellite images, it will help India access topographical and aeronautical data, and advanced products that will aid in navigation and targeting.
Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)
LEMOA was the first of the three pacts to be signed in August 2016. LEMOA allows the militaries of the US and India to replenish from each other’s bases, and access supplies, spare parts and services from each other’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed.
Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
COMCASA was signed in September 2018, allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, and the aircraft and ships of the two countries, can communicate through secure networks during times of both peace and war.
Thus through these three systems, we have arrived at the interoperability of the armed forces of the two countries. Through LEMOA, we share the physical resources that are there in each other’s jurisdiction. The ports, air bases, spares etc. this sharing provides with unhindered access to a big part of the world, keeping the geostrategic importance of indo-pacific region in mind.
With the resources shared, it becomes imperative that we understand each other’s language of communication and the SoPs; therein comes the role of COMCASA. It it through this protocol that the communication is secure and we use the same codes to convey the same meaning with each other.
Lastly, we signed the BECA, making us access the data generated by the advanced US network of satellites – GPS. Although we have the NAVIC, but its reach is restricted from Persian gulf to malacca straits. With signing of the BECA, we get to share military grade data of places within and beyond this zone.
What does it mean in the current context
With an aggressive china in the world affairs, the formalisation of QUAD and the increased focus on the indo-pacific region, the importance of india has become significant. Though we are the smallest member in terms of influence in the QUAD, yet for any manoeuvre to be significant in the region which is being more and more dominated by China, the role of india cannot be ignored. Thus now it is imperative for the US to get india on its side completely if it has to counter China militarily in the indo-pacific region.
With the signing of these three pacts, the next step is the defence acquisition from the US – the missile systems and UAVs. For the US defence industry, it is a step in its favour as it opens one of the biggest the arms market in the world.
For india, it has the twin effect where on one hand we get the wherewithal to counter the Chinese army to an extent and on the other we can leverage the position to push the US to clip Pakistan’s wings when it comes to extremism. We will be able to leverage this position in international fora also, where recently, Pakistan with its all weather ally China, has been raising the Kashmir issue time and again.
The flip side
Keeping everything in perspective, we have to keep in mind that we are getting into a pact with a much stronger nation who has a wider power and different world view. We should remain wary of getting dragged into conflicts which are not of our making. Our diplomacy will be tested as we try to take forward our approach of non alignment and multilateralism against the US hegemony in the world affairs.