India and the US will sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), the last of four so-called foundational agreements for sharing sensitive information and sales of advanced military hardware, during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue on Tuesday.
The agreement, which will facilitate sharing of classified satellite and sensor data, figured in discussions between defence minister Rajnath Singh and his visiting American counterpart Mark Esper on Monday. The signing of the pact will be one of the key outcomes of the 2+2 dialogue between the foreign and defence ministers of the two sides.
“The two ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit,” the defence ministry said in a statement after the meeting between Singh and Esper, who arrived in New Delhi on Monday afternoon along with secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
BECA is considered the last of the foundational agreements to be signed by India and the US. The two sides have been sharing real-time intelligence under the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which was signed in 2018. The two countries signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002 and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016.
Esper was given a tri-services guard of honour at South Block before his meeting with Singh, during which the two leaders reviewed bilateral defence cooperation, including military-to-military cooperation, secure communication systems and information-sharing, and defence trade and industrial issues. They also discussed ways to take bilateral cooperation forward, the statement said.
The US defence secretary welcomed Australia’s participation in this year’s edition of the Malabar exercise that features the navies of India, Japan and the US, the statement said.
India, last week, invited Australia to join the exercise, making it the first military drill in recent years to feature all members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad). The foreign ministers of the Quad nations held their second meeting in Tokyo on October 6.
Singh and Esper expressed satisfaction at the close engagements between the armed forces of India and the US and discussed “potential new areas of cooperation, both at service-to-service level and at the joint level”, the statement said.
They called for continuation of existing defence dialogue mechanisms at all levels during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the Military Cooperation Group (MCG), the statement said. “They also discussed requirements of expanding deployments of liaison officers,” it added.
Singh spoke about initiatives under India’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) initiative and encouraged investments in the country’s defence industry. He invited US companies to take advantage of India’s liberalised policies and the favourable defence industry ecosystem.