NEW DELHI: India and the United States are likely to sign the pending third foundational military pact—Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA)—during the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue likely to be held soon in the US. This is expected to give a boost to the country’s defence system and counter the Russia-China-Pakistan axis.

The first ever 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue between the two countries took place in New Delhi in September last year. This year, the dialogue will be held in the US. However, the meeting dates are yet to be finalised because of scheduling issues. However, the dates would be finalised very soon, sources said.

“When the dialogue takes place, BECA, which is the third foundational military pact, and also the Industrial Security Annex, are ready to be signed. In fact, the Industrial Security Annex is already vetted and has just to be signed,” a source said.

The sources said that the US had shared the draft agreement of BECA with India. “However, India had certain reservations because of its own national security. This was conveyed to the US establishment, which held up the agreement for quite some time. However, now that all the gaps have been ironed out, the agreement will be signed during the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue,” the source said.

India has already signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). However, it is yet to sign the third, BECA. A country needs to sign these three pacts to obtain cutting-edge weapons and communications systems from the US. BECA will allow India to use US expertise on Geospatial intelligence and enhance military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons like cruise, ballistic missiles and drones.

Under the Industrial Security Annex, transfer of defence technology will be permissible. The US has such an agreement with other countries. But this will be the first time ever for India. The US, through this agreement, seeks guarantee for the protection of both classified technology and information. This will be needed to allow the transfer of technology if production lines for US fighter jets are set up in India or other defence joint ventures.

The two countries held a round of the bilateral 2+2 intersessional meeting on 22 August in Monterey, California, ahead of the 2+2 Ministerial. The two sides reviewed the progress and development of bilateral relations in cross-cutting defence, security, and foreign policy areas ever since the inaugural 2+2 Ministerial meeting of September last year and explored further possibilities of cooperation in these fields, based on common interest.

Sources said the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) is likely to be signed during the 2+2 Ministerial. The issue was discussed at the bilateral Defence Planning Group (DPG) dialogue in Washington in August. The Indian delegation was led by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, who had a meeting with US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy John Rood. The DPG has been revived after a gap of four years. The decision to revive it was taken at the last 2+2 dialogue between India and the US last year, which was attended by the defence and foreign ministers of both countries.

COMCASA was signed last year and the two countries agreed on working together on India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). The agreement, which was pending for almost 10 years, was aimed at opening the way for the sale of more sensitive US military equipment to India. It is to be noted that India was designated as a “major defence partner” by the United States in 2016.