On 27 October 2020, India and the US signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation or BECA, which was the fourth and last foundational agreement. This agreement, like the past three, has again kicked up a temporary political storm. Today’s Guarding India Exclusive aims at clarifying the questions and doubts concerning BECA.
BECA is one of the agreements that the US usually signs with its closest partners as it allows interoperability of armed forces and exchange of sensitive information of classified nature. The US has one of the largest defence satellite networks which includes spy satellites, GPS satellites, and other specific intelligence satellites like communication intelligence (COMINT) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites. These satellites continuously provide the US with immense amounts of geospatial data and just for your imaginations, it’s akin to live Google Earth which can give you minute-by-minute updates on Pakistani or Chinese military movements.
During the ongoing Ladakh standoff, the Indian Ministry of Defence felt the lack of requisite satellite data on Chinese military exercises in Tibet as PLA troops directly moved in for the Ladakh standoff that caught India unaware. This will be changed after BECA as having access to US satellite data will allow India armed forces a crystal clear view of Chinese military movements.
Besides tracking the Chinese military another advantage of BECA will be access to military-grade GPS data which is far more accurate than the civilian GPS receivers used by Indian Armed Forces. While India has made its own ‘Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS)’ satellites to cover the Indian subcontinent however still Indian Navy operates in areas that are out of reach of IRNSS for example Strait of Hormuz or in the South China Sea and all these areas are covered by US satellites. The geospatial information shared by the US under BECA will include nautical (maritime) and aeronautical charts. This information can be in either digital or printed formats allowing for greater access.
Furthermore, the accuracy of Indian weapons using US GPS data can be enhanced as well as now India can buy more sensitive military technology like Predator drones which has been on India’s wishlist for a long. However, by and large, the biggest advantage will be the enhanced lethality and accuracy of Indian missiles.
The fears of loss of Indian sovereignty or classified information as raised by certain quarters are unfounded as this is just an exchange agreement and is not any formal military alliance compelling India to act. The only countries that will be angered by BECA are archrivals of India, China, and Pakistan as situational awareness of Indian Armed Forces increases.
Finally, Team Guarding India is sure that BECA has just opened another dimension in Indo-US cooperation which if used judiciously will open many opportunities and allow greater interoperability. This becomes of paramount importance when seen in the context of growing Chinese belligerence which has defied rule-based international order.