India,US to sign a military agreement amid rising tensions with China
India is set to sign a military agreement with the United States for sharing of sensitive satellite data as the two sides began a top-level security dialogue aimed at countering China’s growing power in the region.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper flew into New Delhi on Tuesday for formal two-plus-two talks with their Indian counterparts, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh.
Ahead of the formal two-plus-two talks involving top diplomats and military officials, Esper met his Indian counterpart Singh to discuss the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) on Geospatial Cooperation that is ready for signing, the Indian defence ministry said.
The move comes at a time when India is locked in its most serious military standoff with China in decades at the disputed Himalayan border.
“Today is a new opportunity for two great democracies like ours to grow closer,” Pompeo said before the talks with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh,
“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region.”
The accord would provide India with access to a range of topographical, nautical, and aeronautical data that is considered vital for targeting missiles and armed drones.
It would also allow the US to provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft to India, an Indian defense source told Reuters.
US companies have already sold India more than $21bn of weapons since 2007 and Washington has been urging the Indian government to sign agreements allowing for sharing of sensitive information and encrypted communications for better use of the high-end military equipment.
China has previously opposed such multilateral war games, seeing them as aimed against it. India had also long resisted expanding them for fear this would rile Beijing up.
But the border tension with China this summer, which erupted in a clash killing 20 Indian soldiers, has hardened the public mood against Beijing and is driving closer ties with the US, analysts say.