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India, US clinch military accord on satellite data

China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-28 10:25

US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper (L) addresses the media next to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during a joint news conference after their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Oct 27, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

India signed a military agreement on Tuesday with the United States for sharing of sensitive satellite data as the two sides began a top-level security dialogue.

With US President Donald Trump in a tight race for a second term against former vice-president Joe Biden, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in New Delhi on Monday for talks with Indian leaders.

The new pact-the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation-was a "significant milestone" that would foster cooperation between the militaries of both countries, Esper said at a news conference after the signing ceremony.

The accord would provide India with access to a range of topographical, nautical and aeronautical data that is considered vital for targeting of missiles and armed drones.

It would also allow the US to provide advanced navigational aids and avionics on US-supplied aircraft to India, an Indian military source said.

Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week's presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter what the US calls China's growing influence in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday: "We urge Pompeo to abandon his Cold War zero-sum mentality, stop harping on the 'China threat', stop the erroneous act of provoking relations between countries in the region and undermining regional peace and stability."

Since Trump became president, the US and India have steadily ramped up their military relationship. When Trump visited India in February, the two sides concluded military deals worth more than $3 billion.

US companies have sold India more than $21 billion worth of weapons since 2007, and Washington had been urging the Indian government to sign agreements allowing for the sharing of sensitive information, as covered in the new pact.

In a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Pompeo and Esper discussed the coronavirus pandemic, security and military cooperation, and "shared interests in a free and open Indo-Pacific", said Cale Brown, US principal deputy spokesperson.

Esper earlier said the two countries' focus must now "be on institutionalizing and regularizing our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day". Esper also welcomed Australia's participation in next month's naval exercises involving India, the US and Japan off the Bay of Bengal.

Pompeo separately met Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. He will also travel to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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