India to sign military pact with the United States for sharing of sensitive satellite data, the defence ministry said on Monday. The two sides have begun a top-level security dialogue aimed at countering China’s growing power in the region.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper flew into New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders. India will sign military pact with the US, at a time when India is locked in its most serious military standoff with China at the disputed Himalayan border in decades.
Washington, for its part, has also ramped the diplomatic pressure on China, as ties worsen over a range of issues from Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus to its imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong and ambitions in the South China Sea.
Ahead of the formal two-plus-two talks involving top diplomats and military officials, Esper met his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh. They discussed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) on Geospatial Cooperation, the Indian defence ministry said.
“The two ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit,” the ministry said.
The accord would provide India with access to a range of topographical, nautical and aeronautical data that is considered vital for targeting of missiles and armed drones.
It would also allow the US to provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft to India.
India to sign military pact
US companies have sold India more than $21 billion of weapons since 2007. And Washington has been urging the India to sign military pact allowing for sharing of sensitive information and encrypted communications for better use of the high-end military equipment.
Esper also welcomed Australia’s participation in next month’s naval exercises involving India, US and Japan off the Bay of Bengal.
China has previously opposed such multilateral war-games, seeing them as aimed against it. And India had long resisted expanding them for that reason.
But the border tension with China this summer, which erupted in a clash killing 20 Indian soldiers, has hardened the public mood against Beijing and is driving closer ties with the United States, analysts say.
“Our talks today were fruitful, aimed at further deepening defence cooperation in a wide range of areas,” Singh said.
Pompeo separately met Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. There was no immediate word on that meeting.
After India, Pompeo will travel to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. China has built various infrastructure in the two Indian Ocean countries, to the alarm of India and the United States.