New Delhi: Decks have been cleared for India to sign the pending third foundational military pact with the United States. The pact is expected to give a boost to the country’s defence system and counter the Russia-China-Pakistan (RCP) axis.

According to sources, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial cooperation was discussed at the bilateral Defence Planning Group (DPG) dialogue in Washington recently. The Indian delegation was led by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, who had a meeting with US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, John Rood.

Sources said the DPG has been revived after a gap of four years. The decision to revive it was taken at the last 2+2 dialogue between India and the US last year and was attended by the defence and foreign ministers of both countries.

India has already signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). However, it is yet to sign the BECA for geospatial cooperation. A country needs to sign these three pacts to obtain cutting-edge weapons and communications systems from the United States.

BECA, sources said, will allow India to use US expertise on geospatial intelligence and to enhance military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons like cruise, ballistic missiles and drones.

“The US had shared the draft agreement of BECA with India. However, India had certain reservations in view of its national security. This was conveyed to the US establishment, which held it up for quite some time. However, the US has now agreed to modify the draft to address India’s concerns, paving the way for signing of BECA by the end of this year,” a source said.

The COMCASA allows the US to transfer communication equipment to India which facilitates secure transmission of data and real-time information between the armed forces of the two countries. The LEMOA, on the other hand, allows Indian and US defence forces to use each other’s facilities and establish procedures of easier access to supplies and services required by them.

Experts are of the view that signing BECA is crucial for India in order to neutralise the Russia-China-Pakistan axis for the larger interest of the country and also for the stability of the Indo-Pacific region. They feel that the RCP axis poses a big threat to regional peace.

COMCASA was signed last year and the two countries agreed on working together for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). The agreement, which was pending for almost 10 years, was aimed at opening the way for the sale of more sensitive US military equipment to India. It is to be noted that India was designated a “major defence partner” in 2016 by the US.

India and the United States have come close in recent years, seeking ways to counter-balance China’s spreading influence across Asia, especially in Pakistan, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. The US has emerged as India’s second largest arms supplier, closing deals worth $15 billion in the last 10 years.

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