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BECA - and Indo-US Relations

March 6, 2019 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Prime Minister, Narendra Modi meeting the President of United States of America (USA), Donald Trump, at White House, in Washington DC, USA on June 26, 2017.

News is in the air that India is likely to sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) with the US. This is a logical assumption because India has already signed the other two of what the US refers to as "foundational" in terms of cooperation in defence and sensitive technologies; India has already signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). The US premise all along has been that signing all of three "foundational" agreements would enable technology transfer, logistics and seamless communication between the military systems of the two countries. In all probability BECA would be the main feature of the next Indo-US 2+2 Dialogue slated to be held in the US later this year. A high point of the first Indo-US 2+2 Dialogue held at New Delhi last year was signing of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) that: allows both countries to share high-end encrypted communication and satellite data – implying whatever is detected by US warships or aircraft will instantly get transmitted to Indian Navy on secure encrypted channel, and; the agreement provides legal framework for high-end defence technology transfer – for example, India is now acquiring Sea Guardian drones to detect and target enemy vessels. Readiness was announced to negotiate an Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that would support closer defence industry cooperation and collaboration.

In 2015, the US Departments of Defence (DoD) and State Department, in a joint report to their Congress, had said, "We see a growing convergence with India on our strategic outlook for the region, and we view India as an increasingly important regional security partner within and beyond the Indo-Asia-Pacific region." Subsequently, the White House referring to the telephonic between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, 2017, disclosed that both leaders also "resolved to enhance peace and stability across the Indo-Pacific region by establishing a new two-by-two ministerial dialogue that will elevate their strategic consultations." The Indo-US strategic partnership grew stronger in face of growing aggressiveness of China in the Indo-Pacific and shared concerns about freedom of navigation and interference-free global commons, despite irritants like America's Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). But the US-China trade war, US-Iran estrangement, US actions bringing Russia closer to China and Pakistan, and US decision to exit Afghanistan have brought into focus vital issues that both countries cannot ignore, even as US wants major share of India's defence imports, participation in 'Make in India', and that India should dump Russia as much as possible. The near simultaneous Pakistan-sponsored car bomb attacks in Iran and India, coinciding with the visit of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to Pakistan clearly signals what would happen to the region when US pulls out from Afghanistan. Pakistan has used F-16s to attack India, despite the US providing these to Pakistan exclusively for use in the global war on terrorism (GWOT). It may be recalled that India had been saying so in the past so many years that Pakistan would use these fighter jets against India. It is good that America has "taken note" of Pakistan attacking India with F-16s but is that all to it? Similarly, hasn't telling Pakistan time and again to clamp down on terror and shut its terror sanctuaries been reduced to a poor joke? Or is it that since Pakistan helps US target Iran (in US-Saudi crosshairs), all crimes of Pakistan can be ignored? Surely, targeting the terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan, including inside Pakistan's western border which interests America more, would not start a Pakistan-US nuclear war. India has called Pakistan's nuclear bluff already.

The unofficial counter question by US scholars and even officials "do you want us to attack nuclear Pakistan" doesn't hold good if the terrorist sanctuaries are attacked, with specific intelligence and movement available all the time – with Pakistan permitting international terrorist groups to operate on its territory all the time and undertake attacks on its neighbours. There cannot be two opinions to the fact that Pakistan is the key to stability in the region; evisceration of the terrorism from it is the only solution albeit reducing its size sub-conventionally to make it land locked remains another alternative. With its growing terror industry, not only should Pakistan be denied another IMF loan, FATF needs to place the terrorist country on the 'black list'.

India and US, along with other strategic partners, should work towards this. President Trump may have talked about doubling the taxation for Indian goods perhaps due frustration over his failed summit with Kin Jong-un at Hanoi, but the US needs to recognise significance of the Beijing-Islamabad-Pyongyang relationship and within it the China-Pakistan alliance that bodes grave danger to the world. There is also the question of US-Pakistan relationship in the 'long-term'; Washington's hope that Pakistan will help Taliban reconciliation in Afghanistan and curb terrorist activities. How long will US permit it to be taken for a ride, even if Imran Khan is adept at sweet talk? Finally, the Indo-US Strategic Partnership is very important but needs accommodation and balance, conforming to dynamics of the region.