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Hemant Kumar asked: What is the significance of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for India-US strategic relations?

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  • Ajey Lele replies: Indo-US relations have undergone unprecedented transformation in recent times. The US had imposed sanctions on India for its May 1998 nuclear tests. A decade later, however, following difficult bilateral and complex multilateral negotiations, both states re energised their relationship across the strategic, technological and commercial domains. In early 2011, the US removed high-technology collaboration and trade related restrictions on Indian defence companies, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

    To help expand the relationship in the defence sector, the US required India to sign agreements, mandated by US law to enable export of sensitive military equipment. The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was the first major such agreement to be signed in 2002. The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was signed in 2016, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018 while the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) was signed in 2020. These agreements are seen as essential building blocks for building an expansive security cooperation.

    BECA enables classified information to be shared amongst both these states in real-time without the fear of the data being compromised. BESA specifically pertains to sharing geospatial intelligence, relating to maps and satellite images. The sharing of topographical and aeronautical data would mutually help Indian and US militaries, during both peacetime as well as during wartime. This is because real-time intelligence on possible military targets along with the positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services would hold the key for effective cooperation between the India Air Force (IAF) and the US Air Force (USAF).

    Cumulatively, these so-called ‘foundational’ agreements ensure that Indo-US strategic relationship is not just based on bilateral or multi-lateral military exercises or export of military equipment, but help provide stability and longevity to that relationship.

    Posted on 27 February 2023

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.