India, U.S. set to sign key defence pact on satellite data

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India and the United States are set to sign a key agreement on sharing satellite data for military purposes during a meeting of top defence and foreign policy officials.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence secretary Mark Esper are holding a dialogue on Tuesday with their Indian counterparts Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh aimed at enhancing defence and strategic ties.

The bi-annual meeting of top defence and foreign policy officials comes at a time when India is engaged in a military stand-off with China along a disputed Himalayan border.

The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) will serve as one of three so-called foundational agreements between the two countries for sharing sensitive information and sophisticated military hardware.

The agreement would give India access to U.S. data systems like high quality GPS and real time data that would enhance the efficiency of military equipment acquired from the U.S., including missiles and aircraft.

Indian Defence Ministry statement after Esper and Singh held a one-on-one meeting Monday noted that “the two ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit.’’

The U.S. State Department in a pre-visit briefing said the discussions will focus on global cooperation, on pandemic response, challenges in the Indo-Pacific and defence and security cooperation.

There has been increasing defence cooperation between India and the U.S. in recent years, with both wary of China’s aggressive postures in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. has sold India more than 20 billion dollars’ worth of military equipment since 2007. (dpa/NAN)