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India-US BECA pact raises relations to new heights

The visit to India on October 26, 2020, of US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper for talks with Indian counterparts S Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh for 2+2 dialogue has set up India-US military co-operation on data-sharing. India has entered into the agreement to gain access to satellite data for better accuracy of missiles and drones.

The United States has been pushing for stronger security ties with India to counter the ever-growing Chinese menace. Recently, it approved sale of three weapons systems to Taiwan. Bullying China, cut to size at the Galwan after its aggression along the Indo-Tibetan border, has been punching much above its weight. The US companies have sold weapons worth $21 billion to India since 2007. Now, Washington wants India to sign agreements for sharing of sensitive information and encrypted communications for better use of the high-end military equipment. Modi’s Cabinet has discussed the final draft of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation (BECA) on October 21. It would provide India access to topographical, nautical and aeronautical data, and advanced navigational aids and avionics on the US-supplied aircraft to India. This is a foundational agreement the US has signed with many of its partners for greater interoperability.

India has traditionally been hesitant about getting drawn into a US-led security alliance for fear of antagonising China. But China’s greed for territory this summer raised tensions that dramatically erupted into a border clash in the western Himalayas.

India has invited Australia for the November Naval exercises scheduled with the United States and Japan. That sets China against the grouping but the move signals a new level of strategic convergence between India and the US and a break from India’s ‘non-aligned’ past. The US and India are already sharing intelligence between them about Chinese activity in the region, the PLA deployments on the Indian border and Chinese maritime activity. Both are sharing a large amount of data.

Two largest democracies on the Earth are meeting each other’s requirement through proper dialogue and official channels for mutual benefit. This excellent military pact for peaceful South Asia took shape a decade back.

India is a non-aligned country but expansionist behaviour of fellow Asian country China is driving India closer to the US. Pakistan too will learn its lessons. Ask Nepal how China intimidates and grabs territories of its neighbours. It usurped all neighbouring countries like Taiwan, Tibet, East Turkmenistan, Inner Mongolia and vast expanses of the South China Sea. China enmeshed Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Maldives, and Turkey in debt-trap diplomacy. China need to be countered with heavy hand. China has forced the India-US realignment on India.
China violated the ICJ’s judgement awarding the South China Sea to Philippines-its legal owner. China failed to manage relationship with big neighbour India. It must be regretting its decision to stab India in the back. Emerging India is already extracting a hefty price for Chinese transgressions. It is China which is now pleading India to vacate a portion.

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