A day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper arrived in India, both the countries signed the crucial Indo-US Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which pertains to geo-spatial intelligence, sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence purposes. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held the third edition of the 2+2 talks with Pompeo and Esper.
After inking the pact, Singh talked about protecting territorial integrity and sovereignty. “We held a comprehensive discussion on a range of key issues. Inking of BECA with US is a significant move. Our military to military cooperation with the US moving forward very well. We identified projects for joint development of defence equipment. We reaffirmed our commitment to peace and security in Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
Esper, on the other hand, talked about increasing aggression and destabilising activities by China while Pompeo referred to the Galwan incident where 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
“We visited National War Memorial to honour brave men & women of Indian armed forces who sacrificed for the world’s largest democracy, including 20 killed by PLA in Galwan Valley. The US will stand with India as they confront threats to their sovereignty, liberty,” Pompeo said.
“US and India are taking steps to strengthen our cooperation against all manner of threats & not just those posed by Chinese Communist Party. Last year, we’ve expanded our cooperation on cyber issues, our navies have held joint exercises in the Indian ocean,” he added.
On Tuesday, a high-level dialogue began during which both sides highlighted the need to take forward shared objectives and build capabilities across all domains so as to ensure a safe, stable and rule-based regional and global security environment.
— Shubhajit Roy (@ShubhajitRoy) October 27, 2020
The signing of BECA allows India to use US geospatial intelligence and enhance accuracy of automated systems and weapons like missiles and armed drones. It gives access to topographical and aeronautical data and advanced products which will aid navigation and targeting. This could be key for Air Force-to-Air Force cooperation between India and the US. The cooperation also includes sharing of high-end satellite images, telephone intercepts, and data exchange on Chinese troops and weapons deployment along the 3,488-km India-China LAC.
Sources said that the call between Pompeo and Jaishankar in June — after the June 15 Galwan incident —set the stage and gave a political impetus to the already existing security cooperation apparatus in place. Also, Esper had called up Rajnath Singh in the second week of July.
Pompeo and Esper held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries. Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, PTI quoted sources as saying. The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue.
Both the top US administration officials also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, EAM S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval were also present during the meeting.
They also visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.
— Anurag Srivastava (@MEAIndia) October 27, 2020
On Monday, they started talks with their counterparts, Singh and Jaishankar, in what is being seen as a strong reinforcement of the bilateral relationship and an unambiguous signal of renewal and continuity a week before the US Presidential elections.
“Today’s discussions will add new vigour to India-US defence relations and mutual cooperation,” Singh tweeted after his meeting with Esper which lasted for about an hour in South Block. Esper was received by Singh for the ceremonial tri-services guard of honour. The talks, Singh said, were “aimed at further deepening defence cooperation in a wide range of areas.”
MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Monday that the 2+2 dialogue has been “significant in propelling India-US ties forward”. The first edition of the dialogue took place in Delhi in September 2018, the last one was in Washington December 2019.
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