US-India to sign BECA, doors open for high-tech arms transfers - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 26 October 2020

US-India to sign BECA, doors open for high-tech arms transfers


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 27th Oct 20


Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his US counterpart, Secretary for Defense Mark Esper, met in New Delhi on Monday. This was in the lead-up to the “US-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue” on Tuesday, in which they will be joined by their colleagues, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.


“The two ministers reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning military to military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues,” announced the Ministry of Defence (MoD).


The MoD also confirmed the conclusion of the last remaining “defence foundational agreement” – the so-called Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geospatial Intelligence.


“The two ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit,” said the MoD.


In explaining the benefits of this agreement for India, the bland rationale that is publicly offered is that BECA would allow India’s military to access a range of US topographical, nautical, and aeronautical data, including the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA’s) “geospatial information bank.”


Less publicly acknowledged is the fact that becoming a BECA signatory will take India into a select group of long-range missile powers, which can strike targets thousands of kilometres away with an accuracy of 100 metres or less.


Most long-range missiles are guided by “inertial navigation systems” (INS) over the course of their flight. As an INS-guided missile travels towards its target, however, small navigational errors build up. These errors are best corrected through signals received from highly accurate navigation satellite networks, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) run by the US Department of Defense.


The classified military signal of GPS is reputed to have an accuracy of one metre. If, over a segment of its flight, the INS of a long-range missile builds up an error, the GPS military signal can be referenced to correct it. However, accessing the GPS military signal requires a country to sign BECA.


Signing BECA would also allow India to receive advanced navigational aids and flight management systems for several types of aircraft procured from the US: including the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J Super Hercules, and P8-I Poseidon. 


BECA would also allow India to exchange mapping data with the US to support a particular defence system or weapon, to produce aeronautical and nautical charts, or to conduct joint hydrographic surveys in uncharted areas. 


Signing BECA does not bind India to cooperate with the US in a geo-spatial project that New Delhi might be uncomfortable with. The agreement allows both signatories to decide on projects based on the benefits they perceive.


As on 2017, Washington had signed BECA, or similar geospatial or mapping data-sharing agreements, with 57 countries. 


When the two countries sign BECA on Tuesday, it will have taken New Delhi over three decades to negotiate and sign four “foundational agreements” that the US demands as a precursor for deep defence cooperation.


 In 2002, after 15 years of negotiations, US and India concluded the first of these agreements, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). This is basically a “non-disclosure agreement” that binds each side to respect the security of information shared by the other, thereby creating confidence for activities such as greater intelligence sharing.


In 2009, with India buying an increasing share of its defence weaponry from the US, Washington negotiated with New Delhi a standardized “End Use Monitoring” (EUM) Agreement, which is mandatory under America’s Arms Export Control Act. This defines the terms and conditions for America to monitor weapons and equipment it has sold India, either through a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) or as a Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) via an export license.


While an EUM Agreement is not a foundational agreement, it is regarded as vital to ensure the recipient nation physically safeguards equipment or technology and does not re-transfer it to a third country.


The second foundational agreement, called the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) was signed in Washington on August 29, 2016 by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.


LEMOA has been defined as an “agreement under which the United States agrees to provide logistics support, supplies, and services to military forces of a country... in return for the reciprocal provisions of logistic support, supplies, and services by such government or organization to elements of the armed forces.” 


LEMOA enables deployed military forces from either country to “plug in” to the logistics systems of the other country to meet unforeseen mission requirements. Each country provides support to the other on without surcharges or markups, enabling considerable cost savings. 


The third foundational agreement, called the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) was signed on September 6, 2018. COMCASA lets India procure secure and protected equipment that enables encrypted communications for American-origin aircraft and platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is. 


These aircraft were initially delivered to India with commercial communication systems since high-tech US systems could only be transferred to countries that had signed COMCASA-equivalent agreements. While signing COMCASA has allowed high-tech equipment transfers of various types, the absence of BECA remained a hurdle. 


With BECA now out of the way, India would be allowed the full range of equipment it is entitled to as a designated “major defence partner” of the US.


  1. India now gets the privilege to buy more US equipment subject to US terms. Don't buy from Russia or face sanctions. Under the end user monitoring agreement for the C-130J-30s dictated by the US, India can be expected to spend heavily on overhaul. Judging by the number of sorties flown to Ladakh, I wonder what the actual cost of supplying the forward areas has been considering the forced maintenance that will be scheduled for the planes.


    A 100 F16s as a CONFIDENCE building measure will go a long way in neutralizing Pakistani air force

  3. we get something for immediate requirement to position ourselves against the clear & present threat @ladhak?
    Less publicly acknowledged is the fact that becoming a BECA signatory will take India into a select group of long-range missile powers, which can strike targets thousands of kilometres away with an accuracy of 100 metres or less.

    Kudos to the govt for making #BECA happen!

  4. Use our naval bases in mumbai CHENNAI and vizag to provide logistical support for US CARRIER FLEET.


  5. Vikram_prasad: India now has the privilege of spending tens of billions of dollars to buy 100+ US fighters. On a related note, India's GDP will fall to $2.6 trillion this year from $2.9 trillion in 2019.

  6. Only BJP led governments managed to sign such critically important agreements meanwhile, your favorite Congress governments lagged India in every sense giving excuses. I hope your biased mind will change and you will learn to appreciate Mr Modi and his vision for strong nation.

    1. The full set of agreements were started during nuclear deal ....Manmohan singh govt

    2. Please don’t make up stuff just to satisfy your masters. Zero agreements were done in strategic and military spheres.

  7. @ Vikram_prasad.Don’t make up lies to satisfy your masters. No military agreements were ever signed by Congress with US

    1. The nuclear did open the doors for greater cooperation.

  8. Vikram_Prasad
    If you don’t know details don’t give false information. The first agreement signed was in 2002 by BJP government GSOMIA- that opened doors for all subsequent cooperation.


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