India and USA to share high-quality satellite imagery and more under new pact

To get a better view of regional hotspots in case things get kinetic

The USA and India have struck a new defence pact that will see the two nations share high-quality spatial data and satellite images.

This is an interesting development as readers may recall that India possesses nuclear weapons, a missile capable of 5,000km journeys and a satellite navigation constellation.

Yet the two nations have now decided that they also need a Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) to facilitate exchange of spatial data and other classified information.

Doing so means that India can, in theory, be more precise should it act in neighbouring trouble spots. With shipping routes from the far east to Europe passing within the range of Indian weaponry, an ongoing border dispute with China bubbling away and Afghanistan well within range, the possibilities are concerning.

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The US was a little less diplomatic, framing the talks at which the new deal was signed as important in the context of "defeating the pandemic that originated in Wuhan ... confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom [and] promoting peace and stability throughout the region.

The new agreement is also a tacit admission that BECA will mean India enjoys better information than it can gather with its own efforts.

The new agreement means India will enjoy the same level of access to US data as key regional allies Australia and Japan.

News of the enhanced US/India pact comes a week after India’s Department of Space released a new draft policy [PDF] on space-based communication. The draft calls for only Indian entities to be granted access to Indian space assets and for government oversight of Indian entities’ use of foreign-controlled space assets and services. ®

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