India signs BECA, sealing US-Indian military alliance
India finally signed the BECA (Basic Agreement for Exchange and Cooperation on Geospatial Cooperation) with the United States during the 2 + 2 meeting between the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries in New Delhi last week.
BECA is the fourth of the so-called fundamental defense agreements between India and the United States. The United States has variations of all four of these agreements with its NATO and other close international allies or partners, as well as with many countries to which it sells military equipment. These agreements allow the United States, under arms export law, to sell advanced military platforms, share military facilities and, where appropriate, share communications technology and services. and high-tech intelligence, thereby promoting interoperability and harmonious joint operations between the United States and its allies.
With it – after nearly two decades of negotiations and much discussion within political, diplomatic and military institutions – India has entered into what is, for all intents and purposes, a military alliance with the United States. The fact that two senior members of the Trump administration’s cabinet visited Delhi, just a week before the US presidential elections, shows the long-term commitment of the US state to the strategic and defense partnership with the United States. ‘India.
Alliance Road to Defense
Since the early 1990s and the collapse of the Soviet Union, India had moved closer to the United States – the world’s only and undisputed superpower – especially in geopolitical terms. The flourishing âbromanceâ ran into trouble after India’s declared nuclear test in May 1998 under the Vajpayee government, triggering US-led international sanctions and a prolonged cooling of relations.
The alleged convergence of strategic interests has prompted the two countries to somehow attempt to overcome this enormous obstacle. Institutions on both sides concluded that a solution to the nuclear weapons issue was essential to open the door to a broader strategic partnership, which each wanted, with its own logic. The United States was keen to draw India into its strategic embrace, for which a nuclear deal was necessary under existing US law. The Indian establishment saw an American partnership as essential for a coveted place at the high table of the great powers. As we know, this whole perspective, and the developments to follow, have been strongly opposed by the left and substantial sections of strategic and public opinion in India.
A sustained and intensive dialogue between the two countries over a decade and a half – straddling the Republican and Democratic administrations in the United States and the BJP / NDA and Congress / UPA governments in India – resulted in a nuclear deal that tacitly accepted India’s nuclear weapon status. It has also enabled the United States to enter into strategic and defense partnerships with India, in particular the export of advanced and dual-use military technologies.
The United States and India first concluded the General Agreement on Security of Military Information (GSOMIA) in 2002. In July 2005, during the visit of then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the States United, the latter formally agreed to conclude the nuclear deal, and the two countries signed a defense framework agreement, a landmark event explicitly recognized in the joint statement after the recent 2 + 2 meeting in Delhi. It took another three years for the civilian nuclear deal between the United States and India to be signed in 2008, but the strategic and defense partnership had been cemented.
However, translating the same into practical arrangements required three other fundamental agreements to comply with US law.
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Understanding (LEMOA, 2016) provides for the mutual use of defense and logistics facilities on credit, and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA, 2018) provides for the sale of high-tech US defense platforms and sharing of encrypted communications. . The signing of BECA (2020) completes the architecture of the strategic and defense alliance. Together, they enable seamless interoperability between the two defense powers, as the United States has done with its NATO and other allies and partners.
Since 2005, it has taken a considerable time to develop mutually acceptable India-specific versions of the standard agreements the United States has with NATO, other allies and importers of American defense materiel. A wide range of Indian political, strategic and military communities, wary of a deep entanglement with US military and geostrategic architecture and related threats to India’s strategic autonomy, have resisted this emerging strategic and military alliance. . As the dates of the agreements show, however, the big push to dismiss these concerns has come from the current BJP-led government.
Booming US defense exports
In avidly pursuing a military-strategic partnership with India, the United States has always had another ancillary objective, namely, to acquire a substantial share of the lucrative pie of Indian defense imports.
The United States had virtually no share of this market before, due to a deep-rooted distrust of India’s non-alignment policy throughout the Cold War years, with the Soviet Union providing the most of India’s military equipment requirements and later due to US export restrictions related to the nuclear weapons issue. The nuclear deal and the defense framework agreement changed all that and paved the way for US arms exports to India.
The United States galloped to become one of the major exporters of military equipment to India – especially niche or advanced weapons – for many years, recording a higher sales value than either Russia or the United States. Israel, a newer arms supplier to India. Starting from virtually zero, the United States has now sold $ 18 billion (Rs 1.26 lakh crore) of military equipment to India, with many more deals in the offing! The United States was thus able not only to gain a valuable military-strategic ally straddling the two sides of the Indian Ocean, but also to reap rich dividends in American arms exports, the same model with the double advantage of ties. US military around the world. , only the UK and some EU countries having their own competitive armaments industries.
COMCASA has further opened the door to US sales of advanced technology military platforms to India. India acquired the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft and C-130J Super Hercules troop carriers from the United States, but only with commercially available encrypted communication systems. The advanced encryption systems were only modernized after India signed COMCASA. The two Boeing 777s recently acquired especially for the President, Vice President and Prime Minister previously had multiple Self-Protection Measures (SPS) but, prior to their arrival in India on October 1, 2020, were modernized with devices highly encrypted. communication and other systems given the BECA signature.
Cutting-edge technology as bait
The United States will now undoubtedly push – and India will be tempted to acquire – platforms with advanced technologies that provide real-time linkage to States’ geospatial, navigation, intelligence and network systems. -United. The benefits are encrypted communications, real-time intelligence, greater accuracy for ammunition targeting and guidance systems, and superior networking.
It is not surprising that at the 2 + 2 meeting in Delhi, the United States pushed the Boeing F / A-18 E / F Block III Super Hornets for the Indian Navy’s needs of 56 fighters based on aircraft carriers, both for INS Vikramaditya (redeveloped in Russian Kuznetsov) and the native aircraft carrier under construction INS Vikrant, resulting from the withdrawal of the Russian naval MiG-29 and the LCA naval variant being many years away from completion. The F / A-18s have been in service for almost 40 years, but the latest versions with contemporary avionics and communication systems are still in production for the US Navy. These fighters also have integrated systems for networking with the Boeing P8i maritime reconnaissance aircraft, which the Indian Navy already has with additional numbers on order, and can likely connect to other US systems.
The United States has also offered the armed Guardian or Predator drones, which the three Indian services have long wanted. The sale of these armed drones was approved in principle by the United States earlier this year after India signed COMCASA, but their efficiency would be greatly improved thanks to real-time intelligence and geo-spatial links with them. American systems now activated by BECA.
Danger of confinement in the United States
On the other hand, there are a lot of downsides. First, India is in the real danger of being trapped in US materiel and communications and intelligence systems (COMINT), making them virtually essential to Indian military operations, even when India is operating alone. Second, future acquisitions will also lean heavily towards US systems, preventing India from diversifying its defense imports. Third, and most importantly, Russian weaponry, especially fighters, will not be able to “talk” to American systems without special hardware and software that the United States and Russia will resist. A dilemma has already arisen over Russia’s S-400 anti-missile system, threatening the deal itself.
This is an extremely serious corollary of the American rapprochement, as it can lead to a long-term disconnection from Russian military platforms, with many undesirable consequences for relations with Russia. India would incur high costs if it alienated Russia, both geopolitically and from India’s neighborhood, in an increasingly multipolar world. Finally, will all the advantages actually be available in practice from the United States at all times, against all opponents, and in real time, under any circumstances? Or will they only intervene if and when India engages in joint operations with the United States?
All of this will have a negative impact on India’s strategic autonomy, which has been jealously preserved until now. In short, the benefits can be fleeting, but the costs can be very highâ¦ and very real.