BECA: A JOLT TO REGIONAL PEACE AND STABILITY?

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By Taimur Shamil and Fatima Umar

The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), is fourth of the total agreements signed between the United States of America and India. Since 2002 the first of such agreements came to be known as General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). It was the first step which India and the US took towards becoming strategic partners involving higher technological advancements in fields of intelligence and military. GSOMIA primarily included provisions of sharing and protecting military intelligence between the two.

The second of this came in 2016, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, and as evident from the pact’s name, LEMOA is based on logistical support. After this another came in 2018, the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which adds secure communication and exchange of information between two signatories during operations and military exercises.

The most recent one which raises questions for regional stability is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), signed late in October 2020. BECA was signed as a result of the visit of the US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. What makes it worth discussing are the provisions of this agreement which make India look like some sort of a military base for the US. Under this agreement the US will share top secret and real time intelligence and satellite data with India which can aid the accuracy of Indian Ballistic and Cruise missiles like Brahmas, Nirbhay, Agni III etc. The shared information will provide precision to Indian topographical and aeronautical data, as well as in Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV’s).

Pakistan’s concern regarding BECA:

Pakistan’s foreign office raised concerns regarding the agreement saying that Pakistan and has taken note of the signing of BECA adding that, “Pakistan has been consistently highlighting the threats posed to strategic stability in South Asia as a result of provisions of advanced military hardware, technologies and knowledge to India”.

It is also to be kept in mind that BECA is as a threat to regional stability, especially when India is under a mob-rule led by extremist right wing parties like BJP, RSS and Shiv Sena. Handing such information to a country dominated by extremists will cause stability threats to the regional peace. Moreover, US-India’s 2+2 deal, Beca is said to be a handshake between the two against a common threat, China. Reviewing the timing of BECA and COMCASA, we see that they come up when India is at odds with China.

Although, it is apparently to contain China’s rise as a super-power, regionally and globally, yet India is witnessing discussions of two-front war and so it can be reasonably argued that this US-aided data may well be used against Pakistan, as well.

Can BECA be used against Pakistan?

Referring to this situation in a realistic paradigm, BECA has already cautioned Pakistani Foreign Policy experts. Pakistan and India have fought several wars since their birth and BECA deal would further add threat to regional security, especially between two nuclear states.

Changing regional dynamics:  

Another possible change in regional alignment could be seen with Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia building an alliance of mutual cooperation and regional security. Pakistan and China are already together in CPEC, while Iran has restricted its relations with India, dropping it out of it’s Chahbahar railway project and gas field exploration.

Pakistan and Russia relations have been strengthening, especially since 2016, and recent military drills between Russian troops and Pakistan suggest better strategic relations between both states who share mutual security threats and strategic opportunities.  

What adds worth to this point about new regional collaborations are the recent events in India-Iran relations and growing Chinese influence in Iran. 

In September last year, China and Iran signed a deal of $400 billion, in which Iran would exchange oil and gas with China, while China would support infrastructure developments in Iran. This deal would not only act as a supplement for Iran’s US-sanctioned economy, which is being crippled by Covid, but also provide China an enhanced gateway to Strait of Hormuz, as well as oil on cheaper rates. Along with this, China’s increasing desire to invest in Chabahar would marginalize Indian ambitions in the region.

Moving towards the other regional states, Secretary Pompeo is working on developing closer ties with Sri Lanka and Maldives, while slandering China. Secretary Pompeo’s recent polemics against Communist Party of China were rebuffed by the Chinese officials as a ‘cold war’ mentality of US. It is important to note that Sri Lanka works closely with the Chinese, strategically, and pulling Sri Lanka out of Chinese influence may well be US’s wish.     

To sum up, the long-term repercussions of the US real time intelligence sharing with India are yet to be seen. However, this certainly would disturb the regional strategic balance as well as peace in the region. US seems to be pitching India against China but is India really in a position to contain China’s rise? Certainly not.