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2+2 Ministerial dialogue | India to sign geo-spatial cooperation BECA with U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stand during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on October 26, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

India and the U.S. will sign the last foundational agreement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA) during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue on Tuesday, the Defence Ministry said in a statement on Monday.

“The two Ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit,” the Ministry said in a statement after bilateral talks between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and U.S. Secretary of Defence Mark Esper. Both Mr. Esper and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the national capital on Monday.

Also read | U.S.-India 2+2 talks will focus on regional issues

The two Ministers reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning “military-to-military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues” and also discussed ways to take bilateral cooperation forward, the statement said. Stating that they discussed potential new areas of cooperation both at the Service-to-Service level and the joint level, the Ministry stated.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Mr. Pompeo held talks in the evening at Hyderabad House. The 2+2 inter-ministerial talks are scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Later the two visiting Secretaries will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence. 

Comment | Drive a harder bargain at the Delhi meet

After the talks on Tuesday, U.S. officials will leave for Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.

As reported by The Hindu last month, in the run up to the 2+2, the U.S. was keen on India signing BECA and discussions continued to iron out the differences. One of the major differences was the issue of reciprocity in exchange of geo-spatial data.

A maritime information agreement is also under discussion between India and the US, an official source stated. India already has such agreement with other Quad countries, Australia and Japan. As reported by The Hindu last month, in the run up to the 2+2, the U.S. was keen on India signing BECA and discussions continued to iron out the differences. One of the major differences was the issue of reciprocity in exchange of geo-spatial data.

Also read | U.S. keen on finalising Geo-Spatial cooperation at 2+2 dialogue

Liason officers

The Defence Ministry said the two Ministers “also discussed requirements of expanding deployments of liaison officers.”

 India has posted a liaison officer at the U.S. Navy Central Command in Bahrain recently and is also considering a U.S. request for posting liaison officers at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) and the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The U.S. has already posted a liaison officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR).

A U.S. State department official said in Washington on Saturday that the talks will focus on four themes — regional security cooperation, defence information sharing, military-to-military interactions, and defence trade. 

“This agreement (BECA) will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between our armed forces. We are also seeking to expand secure communication capabilities between our respective militaries as well as between our foreign and defence ministries, and that too figures prominently on what we are trying to accomplish in the information-sharing space,” he stated.

“Holding the third U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in just over two years demonstrates a high-level commitment to our shared diplomatic and security objectives,” said the U.S. State department in a statement ahead of the talks, citing India-U.S. defence cooperation, enhanced military exercises, and defence trade. 

“India maintains the largest fleets of C-17 and P-8 aircraft outside of the United States, and as of 2020, the United States has authorised more than $20 billion in defence sales to India,” the statement added.

Beginning 2016, India has signed three foundational agreements: the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) while the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was signed a long time ago. An extension to the GSOMIA, the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), was signed at the last 2+2 dialogue.

Last week, India announced that Australia will join the Malabar exercise next month consisting of Japan and the U.S.. The Ministry said Mr. Esper welcomed Australia’s participation in the exercise Malabar 2020.

There has been a sharp increase in India’s maritime interactions with the Quad countries on a bilateral basis centered around information sharing for improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in the Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific.

While LEMOA has since been operationalised, COMCASA is in advanced stages of being operationalised. On September 25, for the first time a US Navy P-8A long range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) landed at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar (A&N) Islands for refuelling under LEMOA.

In July, frontline warships of the Indian Navy conducted a passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the US Navy’s Nimitz carrier strike group near the A&N islands as it was transiting the Indian Ocean after carrying out Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:18:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/two-plus-two-ministerial-dialogue-india-to-sign-geo-spatial-agreement-with-us/article32940939.ece

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