Trigger by Col. Rajinder Singh Kushwaha (Retd), Author & Analyst
“There are no permanent friends or enemies; only interests” adage this has been the only constant in the realm of International Relations, things do not remain the same forever. The evolving geopolitics of the world also change International Relations. We as a nation cannot remain locked in the past. Stagnant waters are health hazards, which lead to unhygienic environs.
Gp Capt Srivastava seems to have not considered the Indo-Soviet treaty of 1971 which led Russia to come in our aid. However, Russia’s gradual tilt towards China has left no choice for India. In fact, Russia has cheated India in the recent Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.
Link to Gp Capt Srivastava's analysis: Indo-US Military Alliance: BECA
It was Russia which misled India that China was carrying out an annual military exercise in Tibet and there was nothing to worry about. Indian intelligence had detected Chinese troop movement towards Ladakh however ignored it upon Russian assurances.
As was in 1971, and now in 2020-21, India finds itself in the need fall back on someone to offset the Chinese military advantage over India...therefore the United States of America was the only choice. More so, it is the US that needs it more than India. Therefore, it is a good decision by India.
As I said in the beginning — it is a transformational decision and not a permanent status. India has realised that self-reliance is the only answer to face international pariahs. However, it will take time for India to be ‘atmanirbhar’. until then, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) is a desirable arrangement.
Tarun Yadav, Foreign Policy Analyst
The US basically signs three agreements with a country for deeper military cooperation. These three agreements are Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and BECA.
BECA will allow the Indian military to use US geo-spatial data which will enhance the accuracy of weapons like missiles and armed drones. Just as we use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for accurate navigation, BECA will allow use of US satellite data for accuracy of our missiles.
The satellite data can also be used for tracking the location of our troops and the troops of adversary parties across the borders having rough terrain and tough topography.
Elstan Fernandez, Foreign Policy Analyst
India and the US inked their fourth military pact –BECA during a meeting in late October. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper visited India on October 26-27 to meet India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs (MEA) Minister S Jaishankar as part of the two-plus-two dialogue.
During the meeting they inked the fourth military pact. After signing LEMOA in 2016 and COMCASA in 2018, this is the third and final foundational military pact between the two countries.
India had also signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with the US in 2002. The pros and cons of BECA can only be described with the details from the signed documents but The ‘Time of India’ has quoted officials as saying that the geospatial cooperation agreement will “enable the US to share advanced satellite and topographical data for long-range navigation and missile-targeting with India”.
Meanwhile, strategy and defence experts remain divided on the matter. There are fears that India may not be able to claim an independent foreign policy and strategy autonomy with the signing of the BECA. However, there are defence experts who are hailing the decision to sign BECA.
The Indian government has termed the signing of BECA important because India is buying armed drones from the US. India will be placing an order for 30 armed drones MQ-9B Guardian from the US for nearly $3 Billion.
Former Indian Army Officer and Editor-in-Chief of FORCE Magazine, Pravin Sawhney explains that these armed drones are operationally tested, they can hellfire missiles, laser guided-bombs and its stands to reason that if they are to reach the target pinpoint then they should be given accurate coordinates, and this is possible with geospatial cooperation with America.
What is Geospatial Cooperation?
The main thing in geospatial cooperation is Geography Information System, wherein the US will be giving the military aspects of geography, which is the terrain capabilities, weather, topography, so that better mission planning can be done. Satellite imagery will be part of this as well as the military GPS data.
Sawhney says: “This data is critical for the accuracy of any missile. The data will not directly go to the armed drone, but to a central place. This data is classified and will come as part of the secure wireless network, which will be given through the equipment, which has been given to India through COMCASA.
It will be a combination of BECA giving the data and COMCASA delivering the data to the command post, where there will be options that which missile should take on which target”. India has been in a border stand-off with China since the first week of May in the northern border, while the Western border continues to witness unprecedented shelling from Pakistan near the Line of Control.
Even if India becomes a military partner of the US in its venture to secure Indo-Pacific, Indian leadership, as well as the security forces, are aware that no country will come to fight its war. In such a scenario, the same data can be used for India’s indigenous cruise missiles, rockets, in the case of a two-front war with Pakistan or China.
Earlier this month, the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria was asked if the US will be helping India deal with any security challenge, the IAF Chief said the US deployments are based on their perspective and “we will do whatever is required. Nobody is going to fight our war”.
Serious Concerns over Data
In January 2009, India was test-firing the BrahMos supersonic missile but to the surprise, the test failed due to an erroneous GPS calculation. Further, the investigation had revealed that the US had switched off the GPS signals due to security reasons during the swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama, which resulted in the test failure.
Jointly developed by India and Russia, BrahMos is an anti-ship missile which can hit targets 290km away and can cruise at a particular altitude at Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound). The January 2009 mission had required the missile to hit the target at 50km but it was missed.
As per India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the supersonic missile being tested at Pokhran in Rajasthan travelled for 112 seconds instead of the slated 84 seconds and fell 7 km away from the target.
While India-US inch closer on signing BECA which will provide data for precise targeting but the incident like this raises serious concern for New Delhi as it may occur again at some unfortunate point when India is at a war.
Similarly, another concern with regard to sharing data with the US is that the systems or equipment installed may have malicious software or cyber bots, which can cause a huge disadvantage to India in a longer run. Sawhney says that the mission plans can be easily extracted in such systems and this needs to be considered while signing.
In the long run of India’s future - we will not be able to run our own foreign policy. The more closer you get to the US, the more you slowly lose your independence, and become a sucked in revolving satellite inside the US Orbit. Yes, it is true that safety is guaranteed, as it has a price tag on it.
Pakistan and China will be checked on the war board. We may get back POK, and Akaichin. And our future generations will live in peace. Once we have our own defense equipment and GPS system, probably today’s US technology will be obsolete then.
Maj Gen CD Sawant (Retd), ex GOC Inf Div & Comdt MLIRC
Firstly, the paper has been written based on the news articles in print and electronic media. I wonder if anyone has gone through the agreement. Secondly, I do not consider China as adversary anymore, after Doklam followed by Galwan and their occupation of many locations indicate that they need to be considered as enemies henceforth. Anyway, this is only semantics.
We may recall that India’s cooperation with USA commenced in 1998 after the conversation between Late Shri Jaswant Singh and Strobe Talbott. Since then lot of water has flowed. BECA brings India out of a closet. There is no doubt that PLA is quite superior to existing Indian Armed Forces.
Hence, while dealing with PLA now and in near future we need to have a reliable partner who facilitates interoperability between the militaries of both countries.
There is no doubt that partnership with a Superpower is like walking a tight rope, it is not going to be easy. We have to be alert all the time and also make sure that we are not taken for granted.
In view of the fact that Russian President Putin recently remarked about possibility of possible military alliance with China, we need to have an equally strong partner, if the possibility fructifies.
It is therefore felt that BECA is likely to prove as an asset to India with a rider that Indian authorities need to be constantly vigilant.
Lt Col M K Gupta Ray (Retd) Author & Analyst
The comment written by GpCapt TP Srivastava has been a good effort and opened the forum for a good discussion on BECA which is highly relevant under today’s political and security environment in South Asia. India today is literally facing two fronts which so far has been a strategic discussion.
Under this environment I would like to give my views on the BECA proposal.
First and foremost, we must try to understand that we should not compare the present with the past and vice versa. Every situation, scope of agreement, time space and the participants carry different connotations and relevance. Let me take issues one by one.
Over a period of time the situation has changed. We cannot compare today with 1971 which we take as a landmark for our strategic superiority and perfect use of defense forces. But today distance is not deterrence for having strategic agreement.
In fact, the distance between US and India will provide space for greater dominance over pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans by combined task forces and control the main economic routes thus choking adversaries from their supplies.
The participation and command over the task forces depend upon the intrinsic power of the participants. The military alliance is not ‘loaded in favour of the powerful ally’. It depends on how much one is contributing to the overall force.
So far, the US has been contributing the most in terms of strength and weapons so obviously the overall commander has to be with the US. After all one cannot expect a smaller country with lesser resources to command the coalition army! Otherwise the Second World War is replete with examples when British commanders have been theater commanders having US forces under command.
Similarly, India, if joined with US Forces, would be able to command the theater forces if she is able to provide required troops. In fact, command of any battle in Indian Ocean theatre shall be the prerogative of Indian Commanders.
Provision of a few ‘target coordinates’ by the US cannot be the aim of the BECA. It must be much more. India is capable of getting these by her own resources. The US is aligned to create a joint force with India. Nobody can ignore India if one must operate through Indian Ocean through which 70% of the world's cargo moves.
The best examples have been renaming the formerly known United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) since its inception, to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on 30 May 2018, in recognition of the greater emphasis on South Asia, especially India. So why should we conjecture that India shall play second fiddle??
While our national aim is definitely to protect our territorial integrity and sovereignty, basically a defensive approach cannot be fulfilled without offensive operations backing it. Unless we create strategic depth or plan for a counter offensive the defense will fall.
The next war will be fought in the sea and ocean. China can only be brought to terms if one can choke its supply of fuel for which it has limited strategic reserve since it does not produce much of it. On ground warfare counter offensive is a must. At our level we had gone far ahead of Forward Line of Defence (FDL) to hold our national boundary. Later on these areas were handed over.
As regards strategy and international relation nothing is permanent. There is a positive shift by the US away from Pakistan and Pakistan is no force today less its nuisance value and unfortunate holding of nuclear arms. Nobody can fight an isolated war.
Signing an agreement does not forfeit sovereignty and all agreement has articles in it for the signatories to follow them and the agreement is never a permanent feature can be terminated at any point of time or after a specific period as per the agreement article. The Indo-Soviet peace treaty was valid for 20 years only.
For example: The Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation was a treaty signed between India and the Soviet Union in August 1971 that specified mutual strategic cooperation. That was a significant deviation from India's previous position of non-alignment during the Cold War and was a factor in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war.
The treaty was caused by increasing Pakistani ties with China and the United States and played an important role in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. The duration of the treaty was 20 years and it expired by the end of August 1991. One of its articles, No IX is reproduced below.
“Each High Contracting Party undertakes to abstain from providing any assistance to any third party that engages in armed conflict with the other Party.
In the event of either Party being subjected to an attack or a threat thereof, the High Contracting Parties shall immediately enter into mutual consultations in order to remove such threat and to take appropriate effective measures to ensure peace and the security of their countries.”
Everything depends on how powerful our country becomes both economically and in defense and how politically steady we are. Sovereignty is definitely not an exclusive preserve of Politicians and Bureaucrats. The supreme command of the Armed Forces vests in the President.
The responsibility for national defence rests with the Cabinet. Once the policy is framed and the direction is given by the highest level it becomes the sacred duties of the armed forces to carry out the duties as it deems fit. The Government has to provide resources.
In today’s world no one can fight independently. There must be alliances. The command of the alliance depends on how strong one is. We need to have a wider vision, think, and behave at least as a regional power entering the world forum.
The BECA Debate has been initiated due to a recent article by Gp Capt TP Srivastava that has well articulated its significance and implications for India. The first response to this article has been the trigger for more responses to follow.
All the responses collectively bring forth several critical dimensions of BECA and highlight its relevance for India not only for safeguarding and ensuring its economic and security imperatives but also towards enhancing its regional supremacy and standing as an emerging world power which should no longer remain confined to its geographical borders as in the past.
This is only the beginning of an endless debate not only on BECA but more such agreements or alliances that we may be compelled to be a part of due to the critical threats emerging not only to our sovereignty but to the region and world environment.
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