The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Intelligence (BECA), signed during the visit of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T. Esper, for the third India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi on 27 October, was not only significant but also overshadowed other outcomes of the visit. The list included agreements on Earth Observation and Science and Nuclear Energy Partnership. While BECA will facilitate greater engagement between their two militaries, its timing is equally important. Coming after six months after incursions in eastern Ladakh, the Chinese troops remain there, with little progress made on the ground in talks for their withdrawal.
The rocky road to BECA
The history of the bilateral ties between the world’s oldest and largest democracies has had its fair share of ups and downs. Post-Cold War, the two sides were cautious in their engagement till the turn of the century, which also witnessed the Pokhran-II nuclear weapons testing on India’s part, followed by the Kargil conflict. It was only in 2005, the ice was broken when the India-US Civil Nuclear Agreement was signed, accompanied by the first comprehensive defence agreement between the two countries.
Despite the nuclear deal, which too was stymied by difficult negotiations at various turns, the bilateral ties remained complicated. This can be deduced from the staggered nature in finalising the “Foundation Agreements”- the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002, Logistic Support Agreement (LSA) in 2016, the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) in 2018, and now BECA. For the US, all four ‘foundation agreements’ constitute the cornerstone in its global network of allies – having had over a hundred nations inking them in a relatively shorter timeframe and with far less hassles.
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