Ever since the decline of the cold war, the US tries to maintain its hegemony. This is a zero-sum approach, that is meant to deny any country as a rival of the US, but soon in the American estimation, the most likely country to rival them as a competitor for global influence in China. Therefore, this zero-sum approach has been directed at containing china which had led to a new phase of the cold war.
In this new cold war, the Indo-US strategic partnership plays a central role as a lynch for the US as well as China and India. The element of this strategic or geopolitical American approach to contain china involves several different features. It has used the idea or the argument of maintaining a rules-based international order and freedom of navigation in the seas, especially in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. To control the sea laws and important chokepoints such as the strait of Hurmuz and Malacca, all are vital for china’s trade and oil import.
The United States has also encouraged its quadrilateral alliance to increase the ability, to contain or confront china in the Indo-pacific. Meanwhile, the US maintains its bases in the Persian Gulf, Indian and Pacific Ocean. It also has engaged and incurrence in south china sea and east china sea as part of their Pivot Asia policy started under the Obama Administration. Due to which more than 60% of US Naval and air power was transferred to the Asia Pacific region. The United States also encouraged the littoral states in the South-China Sea to intense in territorial disputes against China. Apart from that, the US under the Trump administration has imposed trade sanctions on China which have led to a greater degree of animosity and confrontation between two major powers. Besides, the US has promoting, dissension within china such as in Xingjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Though, Indo-US strategic relations started in the early 1960s after Washington’s policymakers smelled the future rise of the People Republic of China. But this relation touched new and warm heights after the incident of 9/11 through defense-related agreements and making a quadrilateral alliance in the region. Initially the US govt. signed General security of military information agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002 and proposed three foundational agreements with India. After a long wait and negotiations, they signed 2nd agreement in 2016, the Logistics exchange memorandum of agreement (LEMOA), and in 2018 signed the Communication compatibility and security agreement (COMCASA) mainly provides secure communication and exchange of information between two countries during exercise and operations.
In the last week of October in their 2+2 meeting, the Basic Exchange and cooperation agreement (BECA) pact was signed. The BECA agreement is the last of the four foundational agreements the US signs with its allies to promote defense and military relations. The signing of the agreement is meant to enhance intelligence gathering and sharing between the two countries. The US efforts to strengthen intelligence sharing are mainly aimed at China. For India, the Pakistan factor is also in its growing acquisition of military intelligence gathering and hardware procurement.
BECA, as a communication agreement between the United States’ Department of Defense (US-DoD) and Indian’s Ministry of Defense, allows sharing military information, advanced satellite and topographic data such as maps & other technologies, especially be able to enhance the accuracy of its ballistic and cruise missiles and armed drones. Meanwhile, India also has concerns about US-Pak sharing of information, so it is pre-conditioned that whatever data the US will get, it will not share with any of the 3rd Party. Both parties have also agreed to review their bilateral relations, this holds all particular areas of engagements from joint military exercise to experts’ exchange.
To operationalize this agreement, (BECA Pact) the US must amend its domestic laws, which prohibit civil-military nuclear cooperation agreement with a Non-NPT state. The United States also calls 48 members of the Nuclear supplies group (NGS) to grant India specific exemption from the group’s export control guideline so that India could engage in civil nuclear trade with the rest of the members of NSG. Now the US has continuously pushed the NGS members to allow India full membership of the group, which many of the members are resisting due to their set of frameworks and policies. Though their attempt is not fruitful in adding India, successfully count her in, other export control regimes related to chemical biological, and other sensitive technologies.
The particular excitement showed within India after signing the pact has exposed Indian’s Space to Space capacity. Because earlier they were making those claims of becoming an aerospace power but the way they are projecting this agreement showed their utter desperation of looking forward to such kind of cooperation.
While, by the political lens, this excitement also shows to use such agreements for political gains and to satisfy its domestic audience. This Partnership is likely to enhance Indian political standing at the international level, besides helping current BJP leadership to restore its credibility at the domestic front. On the military side, access to classified information, satellite imagery from US satellites would help India to its situational awareness and can plan offensive military operations that may include the possibility of an aerial surgical strike inside mainland Pakistan; can plan counter force conventional or nuclear strikes. India can use this cooperation against Pakistan’s full spectrum deterrence posture and utilize the information accurately from US satellite for its drone strikes to gain political objectives without putting the credibility of its military at risk, as the world has seen in Balakot.
Pakistan as a reaction counts it as a threat to regional stability. As per the FO statement,
“Pakistan has taken note of the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement. Pakistan has been consistently highlighting the threats posed to strategic stability in South Asia as a result of the provision of advanced military hardware, technologies, and knowledge to India. India’s massive acquisition of armaments and expansion of its nuclear forces, including the introduction of new destabilizing weapon systems, are developments with serious repercussions for peace and stability in South Asia”
These agreements will broaden the scope of military cooperation between India and the United States especially in the areas of high tech. This is part of efforts by the US to build up India as a counter-vet to china, but for India, it is more Pakistan specific. By increasing India’s strategic capabilities such as accuracy of its missile technology, capabilities in space, and conventional weapons. US objective to enhance Indian capabilities in terms of conventional weapons in the region; however, the US will be able to use Indian military and naval bases, especially in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, close to the Strait of Malacca. Whereas India as a quadrilateral alliance member can also use now use American, Australian, and Japanese bases in the Indo-pacific bases.
The BECA and COMCASA provide doors to the US listening, they will be able to spy on India. Meanwhile, India could be held hostage by the US, as it implies its nuclear deployment, command control, activation, and management system is a question mark. India could also exercise operative control over India by manipulating the flow of DATA, intelligence information, etc. though confidential clauses are built-in in real politics, and State interests could force them to go for exploitation of information.
It would not be wrong to call it another mileage of Shifting of balance of power in the south-west Asia region. This will defiantly force Pakistan and china to gravitate to each other. In the evolving environment of IPR, IoR, Astride the LAC, and alongside LOC, this natural bond of Pakistan and China will force them towards a wide-ranging, mutually supporting formal defense agreement.
Pakistan should seriously embark on its pace journey. This deficiency could seriously impede Pakistan’s military planning and developing options to counter India’s evolving man on man or un-man surgical strike or its counter force temptation. Speeding up the Space program of Pakistan is an indigence demand of time. Though Pakistan is working on its space cooperation with china but expanding collaboration focusing more on the civilian application to bridge the gap, as earlier as possible. Pakistan Must prepare for a digitized battlefield and enhanced its cyber-space capabilities. It is time to prepare a multi redundant fail-safe counter system including conventional and nuclear defense systems against any of the aggressors.
Author: Mamoona Batool Zaidi
About Author: Mamoona Batool Zaidi is freelance writer. Her interests comprised all about Pakistan, geostrategy and security.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Pakistan Strategic Forum.