India, US will share ‘sensitive satellite data’ as both sides agree to deepen defence partnership


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stand during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Pool
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar stand during a photo opportunity ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Pool

INDIA AND THE US began a top-level security dialogue aimed at countering China’s growing power in the region on Monday(26).



As part of the cooperation India will sign a military agreement with the US for sharing of sensitive satellite data, the defence ministry said.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defense secretary Mark Esper flew into New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders at a time when India is locked in its most serious military standoff with China at the disputed Himalayan border in decades.

Washington, for its part, has also ramped the diplomatic pressure on China, as ties worsen over a range of issues from Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus to its imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong and ambitions in the South China Sea.



Ahead of the formal two-plus-two talks on Tuesday(27) involving top diplomats and military officials, Esper met his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh and the two men discussed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation that is ready for signing, the Indian defence ministry said.

“The two ministers expressed satisfaction that agreement of BECA will be signed during the visit,” the ministry said in a statement.

The accord would provide India with access to a range of topographical, nautical and aeronautical data that is considered vital for targeting of missiles and armed drones.



It would also allow the US to provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft to India, an Indian defence source said.

US companies have sold India more than $21 billion of weapons since 2007 and Washington has been urging the Indian government to sign agreements allowing for sharing of sensitive information and encrypted communications for better use of the high-end military equipment.

Esper also welcomed Australia’s participation in next month’s naval exercises involving India, US and Japan off the Bay of Bengal.



China has previously opposed such multilateral wargames, seeing them as aimed against it and India had long resisted expanding them for that reason.

But the border tension with China this summer, which erupted in a clash killing 20 Indian soldiers, has hardened the public mood against Beijing and is driving closer ties with the US, analysts say.

“Our talks today were fruitful, aimed at further deepening defence cooperation in a wide range of areas,” Singh said in a tweet.

Pompeo separately met Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

After India, Pompeo will travel to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, two Indian Ocean countries where China has financed and built various infrastructure, to the alarm of India and the US.