By Nimra Rafique
Just a few days before the US Presidential Election 2020, a remarkable development occurred between the United States and India which is going to have huge implications on the strategic stability of the South Asian region. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with the US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper visited New Delhi on October 26 where they met their Indian Counterparts S. Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh, the Minister of External Affairs and the Minister of Defence respectively. During this “2+2 ministerial dialogue” between the US and Indian officials, both countries signed five agreements most notably among all was the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement). Previously both countries had signed the GSOMIA (General Security of Military Information Agreement) in 2002, the LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) in 2016, and the COMCASA (Communication Capability and Security Agreement) in 2018, in order to authorize secure communication and to interchange military logistics. The BECA is the last of these “foundational” defence agreements that are to be signed in between the United States and India.
The BECA deal is a game-changer and capable of facilitating the geostrategic interests of both the US and India. The military standoff of India in June 2020 on the western border in conjunction with china seemingly pushed India more towards the United States. Many Indian soldiers were killed in the deadly standoff near Ladakh earlier this year. It is to be noticed that this was the first deadly clash on border areas in almost four decades which made it crystal clear to the Indian officials that they cannot fight on two fronts simultaneously. It is this realization due to which India has decided to shake hand with Washington in its offense against Beijing as it will help India to confront China on its western front. The US which had already been striving hard to bolster its allies against China over the issues of South China Sea, Coronavirus pandemic, and trade welcomed this step of India; therefore, under the BECA agreement, it has agreed to provide sensitive information to India so that it can confront China.
The BECA will authorize both parties to share high-end military technologies, critical information, and satellite data. It will also enable India to have real-time access to the United States’ geospatial intelligence and will enhance the accuracy of weapons and systems such as armed drones, missiles, etc. It will also provide India with access to aeronautical and topographical data that will be helpful in targeting and navigation. Shared information could either be printed or digital and will include aeronautical and nautical charts, commercial as well as some unclassified imagery, geomagnetic, geophysical, geodetic, gravity data, and maps. This bilateral agreement will also enable the better air force to air force corporation between both countries consequently helping fighter crafts to target effectively and efficiently. While sharing this classified information safeguards are to be placed to make it possible that the third party will not get access to the shared information.
After the finalization of this deal, tensions between India and Pakistan are likely to increase. Tensions are continuously growing between India and its neighbouring countries, and the US backing of India is to be blamed for that. The US at the moment is very critical about China. It wants to contain the rapidly growing influence of China and is building strong alliances that matter India right now is the most suitable one. After the deadliest standoff, China also became an eminent threat for India but time and again India has made it crystal clear that New Delhi is at constant loggerhead with Islamabad and for that reason increased corporation between New Delhi and Washington DC is alarming for Islamabad. The Foreign Office of Pakistan has also shown its resentments regarding the deal and has shown concerns that India is trying to follow the covert spying technique or model.
The BECA deal is going to have serious political, military, and geopolitical implications on the entire region and particularly on Pakistan even though the deal was signed while considering the Chinese aggression and was aimed toward ensuring India’s military buildup purposely for playing a “strategic role” in the Indian Ocean but direct fall outs are more likely to be on Pakistan even though officials have claimed the deal to be equalizer rather than destabilizer. With the US sharing satellite imaginary and military hardware to India under the BECA deal; the capability of India to target Pakistan will increase by many folds some of which are mentioned below.
This agreement will help India to have a close watch on Pakistan’s nuclear installations. India will maintain surveillance and it will also get access to the sensitive maps of Pakistan and by doing so it will put the security of Pakistan at a stake as India is Pakistan’s arch-rival.
This bilateral agreement will enable India to keep watch on movements of troops and other activities across Pakistan’s border and will enable India to aptly pinpoint the location of Pakistani troops providing India a capability to attack targets in Pakistan with more precision and to deploy its forces on required places in time of crises further restricting the surprise element.
India is habitual of blaming Pakistan for every incident of violence that happens inside the Indian Territory and of showing aggression to Pakistan. In case if India again conducts the so-called surgical strike just like Balakot it will be hard for Pakistan to respond in the same manner as Pakistan did in the past because India would have accurate information about every movement across the border.
This bilateral agreement is also going to facilitate India to keep an eye on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the projects related to it. India with the help of satellite imagery will know about all developments on CPEC and that is going to be a huge security risk for both China and Pakistan.
This recent deal is further going to add to the persisting security dilemma between Pakistan and India. Pakistan will become more skeptical of its arch-rival. On one hand, this security dilemma is hurting developments in both countries, and on the other hand, it is also affecting the peace and development of the entire South Asian region. Both countries have sacrificed a huge sum of resources in military confrontation and developing and maintaining nuclear weapons that themselves are very costly. Both countries could have utilized these resources in promoting social and economic development had there not been a persisting security dilemma.
India’s aggression and hegemonic desire and continuous strive for military domination have consistently posed serious threats to strategic stability of the South Asian region and this recent bilateral agreement has further added repercussions for the regional stability and peace and is a moment of grave concern not just for Pakistan but for the whole region. India’s hostile attitude towards Pakistan and growing tensions between the US and China have created this region a new battleground and now when the US and India have agreed upon sharing sensitive information threats to the region have multiplied.
The writer is a student of Strategic and Nuclear Studies at the National Defense University (NDU), Islamabad.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.