INTERNATIONAL

U.S. for closer defence ties with India

Stronger relations:Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter taking a look at INS Vikramaditya in April this year.— PHOTO: THE HINDUMOD

Stronger relations:Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter taking a look at INS Vikramaditya in April this year.— PHOTO: THE HINDUMOD  

The National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), 2017, scheduled to be passed by the U.S. Congress next week, seeks executive action to “recognise India’s status as a major defence partner of the United States”.

The draft bill, released on Wednesday, also said technology transfer to India and defence cooperation must be “consistent with United States’ conventional arms transfer policy”.

A move supported by a pro-India group to designate India a ‘major non-NATO ally’ in the bill was abandoned earlier this year after it failed to garner enough support in Congress. The U.S. recognised India as a “major defence partner” in June, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, but the implications of it remains undefined. “..we would be treated at a level similar to the closest allies and partners of the U.S. and that it sort of allows for better, higher quality, faster technology access on the defence side and also more liberal access to the dual technology side,” Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar had said then.

Recently, Peter Lavoy, Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council, said requests for high technology from India are considered these days with a “presumption of approval” compared to the “presumption of rejection” that used to exist.

The 3,000-page text of the NDAA, which authorises defence expenditures for 2017, has nearly 700 words under the topic, ‘enhancing defence and security cooperation with India’. It mandates to “designate an individual within the executive branch who has experience in defence acquisition and technology” to ensure the success of bilateral defence ties and “to help resolve remaining issues impeding” them.

It also calls for “strengthening the effectiveness of the U.S.-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative and the durability of the Department of Defense’s ‘India Rapid Reaction Cell’,” a special unit that reviews ties with India.

The defence bill enhances India-U.S. defence ties, said Vivek Lall, Chief Executive, U.S. and International Strategic Development, General Atomics, manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles. “Convergence of national security priorities of the world’s two great democracies is being matched by an institutionalisation of defence cooperation in recent years and I believe we can fully expect the strong positive trend to continue.”

Pressure on Pakistan

The new law will tighten the screws on Pakistan to take more credible action against the Haqqani network. It proposes to tie $400 million of the total $900 million in coalition support funds for Pakistan for 2017 to a certification by the Secretary of Defense.

In 2016, the amount was $300 million, which was not released after Secretary Ash Carter refused to certify in favour of Pakistan. The law will require the Secretary to certify, among other things, that “Pakistan has taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to prevent the Haqqani Network from using any Pakistani territory as a safe haven”.

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