US to allow India access to military satellite data

With an eye on China's increasing assertiveness in Asia, India and the United States will sign an agreement tomorrow which will allow the Indian armed forces access to precision data and topographical images on a real time basis from the American military satellites.

The data will be shared under the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which is the third and final foundational agreement the US has with close international partners.  The agreement will be signed during the ongoing two-day visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper who arrived here earlier in the day.

Pompeo and Esper will have structured talks with their Indian counterparts S Jaishankar and Rajnath at the Hyderabad House tomorrow following which the BECA would be signed.

India and the US have already signed agreements to exchange military logistics and enable secure communications.

In a statement released tonight, the Indian defence ministry said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Esper "expressed satisfaction that BECA would be signed during this visit and also at the close engagements between the armed forces of the two countries."

The BECA will be inked in the midst of a six-month-old military standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh.

Rajnath and Esper had a bilateral meeting at the South Block here today during which they reviewed bilateral defence cooperation spanning military-to-military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues.

The statement quoted Rajnath as saying that the talks would add "new vigour" to India-US defence relations and cooperation.

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