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NEW DELHI: The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation or BECA, long in the making, has finally been signed by India and the US.

The agreement will enable India to gain access to extremely accurate geo-spatial data. This is going to have major implications for a range of military aspects, such as giving Indian missiles a killer edge.

Here are some key things about the agreement that what it will bring about.

What is this all about?
BECA is the last of the pacts that America signs with close partners. The pact basically facilitates interoperability of forces and exchange of sensitive and classified information.

India and the US have already signed three key foundational agreements — General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018.

Supplemented by highly accurate US satellites, this geospatial information can help in navigation and, more importantly, in targeting military assets.

The information shared
The information shared could be either digital or printed.

According to an ET story, the information that is shared include maps, nautical and aeronautical charts, commercial and other unclassified imagery, geodetic, geophysical, geomagnetic and gravity data.

A majority of this data is usually unclassified and aimed at facilitating standardisation. There, however, are provisions for sharing classified data also. While sharing classified info, safeguards are put in place to make sure that no third party gets access.

What took it this long?
The pact was under discussion for more than a decade. The UPA government had initially blocked it owing to fears raised by security forces on “protection of classified information and access to classified laboratories in India”.

Most of these fears have been addressed over many rounds of talks. Also, increasing trust between India and the US played a major part.

The agreement on sharing military logistics, which spawned the most political concerns, had been reached a while ago.

How it changes things for India
Although both sides will share sensitive information under BECA, the agreement is likely to benefit India more. It will give India access to military-grade data “that can help draw up target coordinates”.

In essence, these military-grade coordinates can help direct missiles of air-launched bombs to a terror location in the neighbourhood with high accuracy.

It will primarily help in long-range navigation and missile-targeting with increased accuracy. Given the current geopolitical situation, this data will be relevant on both the northern and western borders of India, said Captain Vikram Mahajan (retired), director, Aerospace and Defence at USISPF.