Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation

India and the United States are close to signing the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) during the 2 + 2 India-US ministerial dialogue on October 27. Long in the making, the agreement will give India access to extremely accurate geo-spatial data that will have several military applications. A look at the agreement and what it means:


It is the final of the three basic agreements that the US signs with close partners, enabling interoperability of forces and exchange of sensitive and classified information. While the other two relate to sharing military logistics and enabling secure communications, BECA is aimed at sharing geospatial information, including nautical and aeronautical charts. The complete data, supplemented by highly accurate US satellites, aids in navigation as well as targeting military assets.


Items that can be exchanged include maps, nautical and aeronautical charts, commercial and other unclassified imagery, geodetic, geophysical, geomagnetic and gravity data. This could be in digital or printed format. While most of the information to be shared will be in the unclassified category to bring about standardisation, BECA includes the provision of sharing classified information as well, with safeguards in place to ensure that it is not shared with any third party.


BECA had been under discussion for over a decade but had been blocked by the UPA government over concerns raised by security forces on protection of classified information and access to classified laboratories in India. Over time, these concerns have been addressed after multiple rounds of talks and trust levels with Washington DC reaching at an all-time high. India earlier came aboard on the agreement to share military logistics, which was considered to have the most political concerns.


Data sharing is a two-way street but would be of higher advantage to India as it would get access to military grade data that can help draw up target coordinates. For example, military grade coordinates could help direct missiles of air-launched bombs to a terror location in the neighbourhood with high accuracy. “Data received under the agreement will be useful for long-range navigation and missile-targeting with enhanced accuracy. Given the current geo-political situation, this data will be relevant on both the northern and western borders of India. As this is a bilateral agreement, India will also be expected to share similar data with the US,” Captain Vikram Mahajan (retd), director, Aerospace and Defence at USISPF says.

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