After years of delays, India has finally signed the fourth and the final of the foundational accords of the US – the (BECA) Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement on geo-spatial cooperation considered an important milestone in the defense and strategic relations between the two countries. Defense experts however have warned that the BECA Agreement will enable the Pentagon to tweak data and misdirect Indian missiles for vested interests giving up control over India’s Cruise Missile Command Systems.
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Spatial data is information that comes with or revolves around a specific geographical location anywhere around or outside the Earth. Strategic experts claim the signing of BECA will allow the US to share sensitive satellite and sensory data that would help India in striking military targets with pinpoint accuracy using its missiles.
The signing of BECA for the co-sharing of geo-spatial data will further firm up India’s bid to acquire armed drones that use location-sensitive information for targeted strikes on enemies. This agreement will mark the final one of three military communication foundational agreements between India and the US.
With the two previously signed military communication deals – Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) – the countries are allowed to use each other’s designated military facilities for re-fuelling and replenishment, and share important military information from the Indo-Pacific region.
However, former Indian Army official and author of several books on modern warfare, Pravin Sawhney, claims that the Americans will be able to control India’s strategic assets including cruise and ballistic missile once these agreements cumulatively come into force.
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“India is to sign the Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement with the US to use its geo-spatial maps for buying armed MQ-9B drones. The US can now theoretically control the command & control systems of our ballistic & cruise missiles with its cyber capability as part of sensor to shooter loops!”, Sawney tells Sputnik.
The issue related to “national security” threats was raised by the Indian side when the US shared the BECA draft agreement last year. Bharat Karnad, a former member of India’s National Security Council explains how the Pentagon could tweak data and misdirect Indian missiles under BECA.
The US has, via satellites, apparently digitally mapped the entire world. In military terms, BECA promises Indian forces and weapons platforms digitised maps so obtained of, say, China and hence the precise targeting coordinates for any Chinese military assets India may care to have in its crosshairs in a conflict. It will, in theory, also permit Indian missiles and other over-the-horizon standoff munitions once fired to reach distant points by helping them correct course mid-way and align properly to target in their terminal run for precise destruction.
However, there is one major hitch in this arrangement. As dispenser and source of sensitive adversary target information, the US is in a position to monitor on real time basis the digitised data being accessed and, if its national interests of the moment are so served, to deny the user state such information and even to tweak the digitised data just enough to misdirect the fired weapon, and otherwise to dictate the outcome of such engagements. The US can then plausibly blame technical glitches in the Indian weapon for it going astray.
Interestingly, such an incident has occurred in the past when the intermediate range Agni missile was first test fired in May 1989 and was oriented to “target” by the US Global Positioning System (GPS). The launch was fine and the telemetry in the initial stage indicated flawless performance, but with Indian ships monitoring its progress and stationed at the planned endpoint in the Indian Ocean, the missile entering the terminal stage in its flight suddenly plunged into the sea. What happened was that the American GPS had just then “blinked” sending the missile off course! India thereafter used the Russian GPS.
Same thing happened when supersonic cruise missile BrahMos missed the target at the Army’s range at Pokhran in Rajasthan because its global positioning system (GPS) blanked out because Americans just switched off their satellites.
Brahmos traveled for 112 seconds instead of the slated 84 seconds and fell 7 km away from the target. The mention of this shameful episode is being removed from various media houses that published the story at the time.
So what happened?
The official reason given was that Barack Obama was being sworn-in as the President of the United States and they required the satellite for their confidential use. Many such shameful episodes have been detailed in our book India in Cognitive Dissonance.
It is not hard to imagine such a thing happening with Indian munitions dependent on US-generated target data being misdirected in wartime. With what consequences for India can only be imagined.
GreatGameIndia is a journal on Geopolitics and International Relations. Get to know the Geopolitical threats India is facing in our exclusive book India in Cognitive Dissonance. Past magazine issues can be accessed from the Archives section.