India, US to sign another defence cooperation deal

Our Correspondent

27 October, 2020 12:00 AM printer

NEW DELHI: India and the United States have made significant progress in concluding the last foundational defence enabling agreement - the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) – during the current visits of two top US government officials.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper arrived in New Delhi on Monday for the third edition of the 2+2 talks with their Indian counterparts, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

The dialogues will take place at the Hydearabad House today, eight months after US President Donald Trump's visit to India, and a few days before the US presidential election.

Ahead of the important talks, the US State Department said the country welcomes India's emergence as a leading regional and global power.

"As outlined in our National Security Strategy, the United States welcomes India's emergence as a leading regional and global power. The United States looks forward to collaborating closely with India during its upcoming term on the UN Security Council," the US said.

Upon arrival in New Delhi, the US defence secretary on Monday held a meeting with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and agreed to sign the agreement, namely BECA.

The BECA will be signed today formally at the joint meeting between the two countries at the Hydearabad House. Before the joint press conference, both the secretaries will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The BECA, which will have a far-reaching effect in the region, will enable sharing of military technology, logistics and geospatial maps.

This agreement along with three other agreements signed earlier will enable both India and the USA to oversee the sensitive border situation, a high official commented.

US Secretary of State Pompeo started a bilateral discussion with Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jayshankar in the evening. The two countries inked the logistics exchange memorandum of agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their military to use their bases each other for repair and replenishment of supplies and two years later agreed on a communications compatibility and security agreement.

The timing of the 2+2 meeting is just a week ahead of the US election and some defence experts already questioned the timing of the meeting as the outcome of the election is uncertain.

India and China are presently at a confrontation in Eastern Ladakh while the US and India will definitely discuss the cooperation in detail during today’s talks, sources added.

After their India visit, both the US secretaries will visit the Maldives and Sri Lanka to hold talks about the Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Pompeo's visit marks the fourth visit to India by a secretary of state during the Trump administration. He will end his five-day Asia trip in Indonesia, one of several Southeast Asian countries wary of growing Chinese activities in the disputed South China Sea.