The US-India Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement
Written by: (Contributed) on 9 November 2020
The diplomacy, however, has rested upon the longer-term increase in sales of US military and intelligence equipment with a compliant government in New Delhi to enhance US military preparations.
India, therefore, can be seen to have been allocated a key strategic position for 'US interests' by military planners, due to it being:
*geographically close to China with long-standing diplomatic rivalries;
*a major player inside the British Commonwealth;
*a dominant player in the Indo-Pacific region;
*a country with numerous diplomatic links elsewhere in the developing world.
In October 2020, the US and India established a Basic Exchange and Co-operation Agreement (BECA) to 'allow for expanded geospatial-information sharing between our armed forces'. (1) Official media releases about the high-level diplomatic initiative also stated 'the pact would give India access to advanced US map and satellite imagery, enhancing the accuracy of automated weapons, drones and missiles'. (2)
India, increasingly, has been drawn closer to the triangular US-led regional diplomacy with Australia and Japan, and it is, therefore, important to note the BECA was developed at the recent meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) in Tokyo in October as part of an expanded provision which now has included: defence and security provision, maritime security, infrastructure, investment technology, cyber affairs, supply-chains and public health. The QSD is, increasingly, resembling a regional out-station of the US/European-based NATO.
High-level diplomatic talks between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Indian counterparts noted the two countries were 'expanding America and India security co-operation', leading to the establishment of the BECA. (3) The signing of the BECA itself rested upon earlier agreements which included the so-called '2+2' dialogue established in 2018 where the US allowed India access to 'encrypted military intelligence' and an MOA where US personnel were allowed onto India's military facilities. (4)
The US has been keen during the past decade to include India in their regional military and security provision; in 2008, for example, co-operation between the two countries was marked with defence trade being virtually non-existent; it has subsequently grown to more than US$20 billion this year. (5) The defence sales have also been accompanied by India being included in numerous US-led regional military exercises.
Throughout the recent arms sales the listed function of 'interoperability' between the US and India, and moves to 'allow the transfer of high-end military platforms', has become commonplace. (6) The military relationship has also been accompanied with information relating to 'geo-spatial intelligence and real-time images', indicating extensive planning for drone intelligence-collection and warfare. (7)
The rise of China as a serious competitor has proved problematic for the US; their diplomacy has increasingly focussed upon developing regional agreements and alliances to encircle and contain China's rising influence. It is not difficult, therefore, to see why the US has drawn India diplomatically closer.
India's diplomatic relationship with China, historically, has also been problematic. The two countries regard each other as long-time rivals. On occasions hostilities have included military stand-offs over boundary disputes as in the recent case of their shared Himalayan borders in June. Further disputes of a similar nature are expected over nearby Kashmir following a decision recently taken by neighbouring Pakistan to formally integrate part of the area which is also claimed by India. (8)
Decisions by the US to include drawing India closer into the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance have to be seen as an attempt to create another hub for 'US interests', working alongside Australia and Japan. (9) India's recent transition from a non-aligned country with strong diplomatic links with the former Soviet Union and Russian Federation to closely allied with the US, therefore, has led to the BECA marking a 'turning point away from its historical non-alignment policy, and re-mapping of its foreign policy priorities under right-wing nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi'. (10)
A number of important considerations have arisen.
The fact India is geographically close to China has provided the US with an added bonus: military facilities near border areas can be used for ground-control stations with sensitive surveillance and monitoring equipment for intelligence-collection.
Wider regional matters linked to geographical demarcation disputes were acknowledged by the US with the statement that they regarded India 'as a linchpin in its Indo-Pacific strategy', and that the BECA provided India with 'access to sensitive military satellite data … to track Chinese military movements on its Himalayan border'. (11) In addition, the Nepalese communists regard Indian expansionism as a serious threat.
Secondly, India has remained a long-standing player inside the British Commonwealth, a highly influential 54-member country body developed from the remnants of Empire. India was, in fact, regarded as the jewel in the crown of empire. Many of the countries in the British Commonwealth remain of high-level strategic value, as outlying centres of British influence and sensitive supply lines, which some historians have suggested were primarily concerned with protecting trade links with India.
The British Commonwealth also has the function of an overseas intelligence service for Whitehall, converging upon the Privy Council and acting head of state, Prince Charles. India, therefore, has access to the shadowy world of the corridors of power and influence.
Thirdly, India has maintained a long-time dominant role in the Indo-Pacific region with full diplomatic relations with 27 countries together with extensive trade relations. (12) Many of the countries concerned also host Indian expatriate professionals and workers.
Finally, India also retains strong diplomatic relations throughout the world, including active membership of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and World Trade Organisation which provide ready access to international financial institutions controlled by the US. (13)
It is, therefore, important to note that the US has been shown to favour 'security partnerships outside the alliance system', which are not clearly defined but left open to redefinition and flexibility at a later date, if required. (14) India, for example, can be used by the US for a wide variety of purposes to defend, secure and promote 'US interests' through Washington and the Pentagon accessing any of the above four listed criteria.
In conclusion, India has been drawn closer to US-led diplomatic positions in recent times, with the purpose of confronting China in specific sensitive areas including contested borders. As Australia is also part of the same US-led military planning we are increasingly entering a period whereby our standard military and security considerations can easily be replaced with real-war scenarios following an escalation of diplomatic hostilities in areas of the world far beyond our usual line of focus.
With that in mind: We need an independent foreign policy!
1. US, India to sign military pact to counter China, Australian, 27 October 2020.
3. Pompeo renews charm offensive to keep China in check, Australian, 23 October 2020.
4. Australian, op.cit., 27 October 2020.
6. India, US fall in line in bid to curb China aggression, Australian, 28 October 2020.
7. Australian, op.cit., 27 October 2020.
8. Pakistan changes status of Kashmir, Australian, 5 November 2020.
9. Australian, op.cit., 28 October 2020.
12. Wikipedia: Foreign Relations of India.
14. Australian, op.cit., 28 October 2020.
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