Washington will support Delhi defend sovereignty and liberty, says Pompeo as two nations sign last foundational agreement, BECA.
India is “challenged by reckless aggression on our northern borders”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in his opening remarks at the 3rd India-US “2+2” dialogue. The Indian concern about China was echoed by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo who said the United States will support India in defending territorial sovereignty and liberty. Addressing the media at the end of the ministerial dialogue, Mr. Pompeo also said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is “no friend to democracy”.
The comments on China came as India signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on geospatial cooperation (BECA) with the U.S.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Singh laid out the twin challenges of the pandemic and the military scenario. “We are meeting today at an extraordinary time. This pandemic is something that we have never experienced in our lifetime.. ..In the area of defence, we are challenged by reckless aggression on our northern borders,” said Mr. Singh. The senior Minister’s comments were taken forward by Mr. Pompeo who promised American support to India.
“The United States will stand with the people of India as they face threats to their sovereignty and their liberty,” said Mr. Pompeo hinting at the ongoing tense scenario in eastern Ladakh where Indian and Chinese forces are facing each other at least since May. Mr. Pompeo also referred to the greater threats posed by China in the Asia-Pacific region and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“Our leaders and our citizens see with increasing clarity that the CCP is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, nor to freedom of navigation, the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific. I am glad to say the U.S. and India are taking steps to strengthen cooperation against all manner of threats and not just those posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. Pompeo told the media at the Hyderabad House here.
Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said, “BECA will enable greater sharing of geospatial information between our armed forces.” India and the U.S. also sealed an MoU on Technical Cooperation in Earth Observations and Earth Sciences and an agreement to extend duration of the MoU regarding the Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership. The two sides also signed an agreement on electronic exchange of customs data and a letter of intent regarding cooperation in traditional Indian medicines.
A Joint Statement issued following the conclusion of the visit of the American dignitaries highlighted shared goals in the Asia-Pacific region and “emphasised that the Code of Conduct in the South China sea should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of any nation in accordance with international law”. The two sides also decided to expand joint capacity building activities with partner countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
Mr. Pompeo also referred to the loss of lives of Indian soldiers in the clash with the Chinese PLA troops in June and said India and the U.S. are committed to uphold common values against threats and said, “Today morning we have been to the National War Memorial to pay homage to the brave men and women of the Indian armed forces who have sacrificed for the world’s largest democracy including 20 that were killed by the PLA forces in Galwan valley in June.”
Explaining the “2+2” dialogue, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said the discussions had a political military content. “Our national security convergences have obviously grown in a more multipolar world. We meet today to not only advance our own interests but to ensure that our bilateral cooperation makes a positive contribution in the world arena,” said Dr. Jaishankar.
Speaking about the conclusion of BECA ahead of the U.S. presidential election, a highly placed government source said the presence of the Secretaries of State and Defence in India despite the election season in the U.S. is a sign of the importance that America attaches to India. “It is a demonstration to the world at large,” said the official about the discussions. Apart from the Indo-Pacific region, the two sides also discussed the status of Afghanistan and supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
Geospatial information exchange
BECA enables exchange of geospatial data and information and will improve the accuracy of India’s missiles during precision strikes.
It will help share geospatial maps and charts which may have been acquired from multiple sources like satellites, UAVs, reconnaissance aircraft, aerostats among others, said Captain (IN) Vikram Mahajan (Retd), Director, Aerospace and Defence at the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum. “Data shared from BECA will help in identifying, updating and tracking of various types of target and their position, both on land and sea,” he told The Hindu.
Terming the signing of BECA a “significant achievement,” the Defence Minister said the U.S. accepted an Indian request for “cooperation in the advanced field of maritime domain awareness.” As part of measures to enhance military to military cooperation Mr. Singh said now the liaison officers at each other’s establishments could be leveraged to enhance “information sharing architecture” while in the joint statement both sides “reiterated their intent to assign additional liaison officers.”
Responding to the comments of the U.S. Secretary of State, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Mr. Pompeo’s comments are groundless. “These are groundless accusations which reflect he is clinging to Cold War mentality and ideological biases. We urge him to abandon the Cold War and zero sum game mentality, stop sowing discord between China and regional countries as well as undermining regional peace and stability,” said Mr. Wang.