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US amending bill to upgrade defence trade ties with India to NATO status

21 May 2016

In what could be seen as a sign of a closer and mature relationship between the United States and India, the US House of Representatives on Friday approved a bipartisan legislation to improve defence ties with India.

The move to amend the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), dubbed as 'Enhancing Defence and Security Co-operation with India', comes ahead of Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington early next month.

Once passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA)-2017 would put India on par with NATO allies and Israel with regards to US defence trade, including transfer of technology and sale of defence equipment.

The legislation, primarily aimed at easing restrictions on sale of defence equipment and technology transfer to India, seeks to promote greater defence trade with India and encourage additional military cooperation between the United States and India.

The bill provides for a designated official to focus on US-India defence cooperation, which will facilitate transfer of defence technology and maintain a special office in the Pentagon dedicated exclusively to the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).

The upgradation of the US-India relations can be seen in the context of the Pivot to Asia Doctrine of the Obama administration that aims at building new relationships in the Asia Pacific region.

The legislation authorises the executive branch of the US government to deal with India and authorises enhanced military planning with the USA an important milestone in the US-India relations as it addresses one of the tricky issues of defence technology transfer and sale.

The future missions of mutual interest will be such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter piracy, and maritime domain awareness.

This amendment "seeks to promote greater defence trade and encourage additional military cooperation between the United States and India," PTI quoted Republican Congressman George Holding as saying.

"I believe that by requiring our government to take actions such as strengthening Defence Technology and Trade Initiative and encouraging combined military planning with India, we can make certain that the US-India defence relationship endures," the agency quoted Holding as saying.

The amendment was co-sponsored by Holding and Democratic Congressman Ami Bera (the House India Caucus Chairs), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Elliot Engel.

Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn (Senate India Caucus Chairs) introduced a similar bill in the Senate last week. Senator Marco Rubio, the former Republican Presidential hopeful reportedly became a co-sponsor of the bill, this week.

Once both Senate and the House of Representatives pass the NDAA-2017 amendment, it will reach US President Barack Obama, who may then sign it into a law.

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