ISLAMABAD: The Indo-US pact on geospatial intelligence sharing could undermine region’s strategic stability, said experts as they called for urgent steps to counter it.

The experts were speaking at a webinar on ‘India-US Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA): implications for the South Asian region’ hosted by the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), says a press release issued by the think-tank on Thursday.

BECA follows three other foundational agreements already signed by India and US: General Security of Military Information Agreement (2002), Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (2016) and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (2018). The accords aim at expanding defence cooperation between the two countries.

The Indo-US agreement allows sharing of advanced satellite and topographic data such as maps, nautical and aeronautical charts, geodetic, geophysical, geomagnetic and gravity data, which could significantly enhance Indian military’s situational awareness for planning conventional or nuclear strikes against its adversaries.

BECA was signed by Indian and US defence ministers on the occasion of their 2+2 dialogue held in Delhi recently.

Pakistan’s former envoy to the United Nations in Geneva and Conference on Disarmament Zamir Akram said Indo-US strategic partnership was making not only South Asia but the entire Asia-Pacific region more volatile and dangerous.

He believed that the strategic partnership between US and China would continue to grow despite the imminent change at the White House because of the victory of President-elect Joe Biden in the elections. He said the new US administration may not pursue aggressive policies against China but would not give up the pursuit of the strategic objective of containing China.

Dean Faculty of Aerospace Sciences and Strategic Studies at Air University Dr Adil Sultan said BECA could enhance India’s situational awareness, thereby facilitating it in conducting any pre-emptive strike that it may intend to undertake. Pakistan, he suggested, should fast track its indigenous space programme and enhance its space cooperation with China.

Defence analyst retired Brig Samson Simon Sharaf believed that the shifting balance of power in the Southwest Asian region and evolving strategic environment could bring Pakistan and China together into binding, wide ranging, mutually supporting and formal defence arrangements.

He proposed that Pakistan should develop its capabilities through urgent acquisitions of systems from China and Russia.

President SVI Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said India-US partnership has come to a point that it has significant implications not only for Pakistan and China but the whole Asian region.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2020

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