India and the US have signed a military agreement on sharing sensitive satellite data amid Delhi’s tense border standoff with Beijing.
Access to such data is considered vital for hitting missiles, drones and other targets with precision.
The deal was announced after the annual “2+2” high-level talks in Delhi on Tuesday.
Experts say the strengthening of India-US ties is aimed at countering China’s influence in the region.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper held talks with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also met Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar.
“Over [the] last two decades, our bilateral relationship has grown steadily in its substance, facets and significance,” Mr Jaishankar said on Tuesday. He added that the talks would enable the two countries to “engage much more intensively on matters of national security”.
The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation, or BECA, is among the few deals that the US signs with close partners. It allows India access to a range of sensitive geospatial and aeronautical data that is crucial for military action.
The two sides also signed a clutch of other deals in the fields of nuclear energy, earth sciences and alternative medicine. But BECA is the most significant deal among them.
It will allow the US to “provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft to India”, an Indian defence source told Reuters news agency – that also means the US can fit high-end navigational equipment in the aircraft it supplies to India.
Twenty Indian soldiers died in a clash that erupted between troops on both sides in June, sparking months-long rounds of diplomatic talks to ease tensions. But that has not helped to de-escalate hostilities so far.
Relations between the US and China have also soured in recent months with President Donald Trump’s repeated criticism of Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The US has also rebuked China for imposing a new security law in Hong Kong, following large-scale protests.
The deal is another step forward in deepening India-US military ties. India is one of the word’s biggest defence equipment buyers, but around 60-70% of its inventory is supplied by Russia.
Source : BBC