The long-awaited Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement or BECA, which gives India access to classified geo-spatial data as well as critical information having significant military applications from the US, was signed today as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held the third edition of the 2+2 talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper, in New Delhi.
The signing of BECA with the US is a "significant" move, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said as he briefed the media after the high-level talks held at Hyderabad House in the national capital.
"We held comprehensive discussion on range of key issues: Inking of BECA with US a significant move. Our military to military cooperation with US moving forward very well. We identified projects for joint development of defence equipment. We reaffirmed our commitment to peace and security in Indo-Pacific region," he said.
BECA, which is the fourth and final "foundational" understanding the US has with India, will allow India to gain access to precision data and topographical images - on a real time basis - from United States military satellites. The signing of the long-negotiated defence pact comes in the backdrop of India's tense border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the situation in the Indo-Pacific was also discussed during the talks. "Our national security convergences have grown; Indo-Pacific was a focus of our discussion," he said.
US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said that the growing defence and security partnership between India and the US will keep a check on the situation in the Indo-Pacific at a time when China is attempting to expand its economic and military clout in the region. The sensitive satellite and sensor data provided by the US under the agreement will allow India to keep a close watch on the movements of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his country's support for India in its efforts to "defend its sovereignty". "We stand with India to deal with threats to its sovereignty," he said.
This is the third edition of the 2+2 talks External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are holding with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper. Both sides were assisted by their top military and security officials.
The in-person talks were held at a time when India is locked in a tense standoff with China in eastern Ladakh and the Trump administration's growing friction with Beijing over a host of issues including trade tariff and the Chinese military's offensive manoeuvres in the South China Sea.
Ahead of the crucial meet, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The officials had a "constructive meeting and discussed a number of issues and challenges of strategic importance", ANI reported
Earlier in the day, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India's fallen heroes.