The United States Congress has cleared the decks for India to become a “major defence partner,” with the Senate overwhelmingly passing the $618-billion American defence budget for 2017 on Thursday by 92 to 7 votes.
The 2017 National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) was passed earlier by the U.S. House of Representatives by 375-34 votes and now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign it into law.
“I applaud the inclusion of forward-leaning provisions designed to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation with India, including expanded military-to-military engagement, increased defence trade, and greater cooperation on technological development,” Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus, said in a statement after the Senate passed the bill.
‘India, an important partner’
“As the world’s largest democracy and one with which U.S. strategic interests increasingly align, India is an important partner in promoting economic growth and global security,” said Mr. Warner, who will serve as Vice-Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the 115th Congress.
Titled ‘Enhancing defense and security cooperation with India,’ Section 1292 of the NDAA asks the Defence Secretary and the Secretary of State to take steps necessary to recognise India as America’s major defence partner of the U.S.
It also asks the administration to designate an individual within the executive branch who has experience in defence acquisition and technology to reinforce and ensure, through inter-agency policy coordination, the success of the Framework for the U.S.-India Defence Relationship; and to help resolve remaining issues impeding U.S.-India defense trade, security cooperation, and co-production and co-development opportunities.
‘Transfer of advanced technology’
The Act calls for approval and facilitation of transfer of advanced technology, consistent with U.S. conventional arms transfer policy, to support combined military planning with India’s military for missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-piracy, freedom of navigation, and maritime domain awareness missions, and to promote weapons systems interoperability.
Calling to strengthen the effectiveness of the U.S.-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative and the durability of the Department of Defence’s ‘India Rapid Reaction Cell,’ NDAA 2017 also seeks collaboration with India to develop mutually agreeable mechanisms to verify the security of defence articles, defence services and related technology such as appropriate cyber security and end use monitoring arrangements consistent with U.S.’ export control laws and policy.
After the passage of the bill, within 180 days, the Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State have been asked to jointly submit to the Congressional Defence Committees and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives a report on how the U.S. is supporting its defence relationship with India.