After more than a decade, India and the US are all set to sign the last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA).
This agreement has been running into various security concerns over the years, which now have been addressed through several rounds of talks between the two countries. The Ministry of Defence on Monday had officially announced that the BECA agreement will at the end of the third round of 2+2 ministerial dialogue in New Delhi. The two countries are also working on a Maritime information agreement, which was discussed when the defence minister Rajnath Singh had met the US Defence Secretary Mark Esper.
So far India has inked Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA); Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and BECA which is to be inked shortly.
The Three Pacts Together — what does it mean for India?
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Milind Kulshreshtha, C4I expert, says, “With COMCASA, BECA and LEMOA Agreements under the belt, India shall decisively evolve as a serious military power in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Region for decades to come. Recent Indo-China standoff has heralded a new dimension of India in terms of an aggressive military stance, and the common adversary is bringing Indo-US relationship to a level never ever seen before historically. These primary three pacts here have provided the much needed impetus to the dwindling US influence in the Asia Pacific region. India, which shares more than 3,440km long border with China (with overlapping territorial claims) now may have a border dispute triggering more aggression in the IOR region.”
According to the C4I expert, “The US is well aware of advantage India’s maritime geography provides for launching its operations against Chinese misadventures, while being able to maintain its resources in a safe zone (of collaborative partners). The visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia is a clear indication of the US plans to be highly active in this region, with probably a sustained presence now. China’s growing Naval prowess to project it’s Naval capabilities in the IOR is likely to see some stout positioning on the high seas. These serious Indo-US Agreements are not what the new ‘aggressive’ China shall be comfortable with.”
“It may happen that India may not be able to increase it’s military resources at a short notice to immediately tilt the Indo-China military power balance despite these major three Agreements. But, India’s MoD shall surely now have a Long Term Perspective Plan which may look totally different from the one reviewed just last year. A greater focus towards Defence organisational reforms and some serious investments in multi-functional C4I systems at Tri-services level could be some of the way ahead points here,” Milind Kulshreshtha opines.
The COMCASA framework for the interchange of encrypted communication between India and US militaries are the way ahead for achieving inter-operability, especially for the US-supplied defence equipment, in case the two militaries plan to exercise in Air, Sea or Underwater domains. The US have its own Link-16/Link-11 systems as the main Tactical Data Link which is used by all NATO forces and the Link 16 equipment is installed on sea, airborne platforms and ground. For an efficient and effective use of war-fighting assets, it regularly enhanced to effectively produce Common Operating Picture. With US Space Command in place now, the Space segment support has greatly enhanced the accuracy and latency figures of the US Tactical Data Link. As the Tactical Data Link handle high speed processed information from Radars, EW, IFF, Sonars information related to various combat function, the efficiency in terms of throughput and latency is an important criterion for Net-Centric Warfare activities. For a cooperative engagement of any incoming threat or for launching a coordinated Air or Sea patrol over a large area, Indo-US cooperation now needs to go beyond personnel transfer role.
This agreement is primarily focused on the joint military coordination and operations and provisioning of each other’s military facilities for logistical supports. Owing to LEMOA, both India and the US will be able to access each other’s military facilities for fueling and logistics support. This shall entail setting up of repair and replenishment infrastructure for US Armed Forces in India so that their Units can be effectively operationalized even after suffering battle damage. Indian boundaries can provide a safe zone for US Forces in the Region.
“On the other hand, it emerges that the China factor takes priority over US involvement in the fight against terror in Pakistan. Here, Pakistan may be at discomfort with the knowledge that the US considers India indispensable as a strategic partner in the Asia-Pacific Region. Access to seeing up close the operations of US military hardware, which may also be held by Pakistan, shall provide the much-needed capability awareness to India,” explained a senior officer.
The BECA is all about the exchange of Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) information for the military as well as the government. For the collection and processing of GEOINT information, the US shall exchange technical information related to the specifications, methods, and formats.
As far as India is concerned, the Indian Army’s Survey General’s shortcomings in providing accurate maps even for regions within India has not been found to be adequate for data fusion related work.
The conversion of previously collected Geo data prior to WGS84 (World Geodetic Survey 1984) Reference Datum implementation was slow and error-prone in implementation. The GIS systems advanced at a rapid technological pace, while Military Survey General could not keep pace with such advancements, rendering their database inaccurate and bereft of correction updates. This gap shall now be filled by US GEOINT information made available under the aegis of BECA Agreement.