Indo-American ties will see a major shift this week. National Defence Authorisation Act of 2017 which allocates funding each year to the US military is scheduled to be presented in the US Congress this week. The amendment is entitled – “Enhancing Defence and Security Cooperation with India”. It is a major budget bill that will formalise and consolidate India’s status as a major US partner.
Indo-American | Provisions of the Bill (for India)
The India Amendment which forms the Section 1292 of the NDAA mandates: “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this act (the NDAA), and annually thereafter, the Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State shall jointly submit to (Congress) a report on how the United States is supporting its defence relations with India in relations to the actions described. . .”
Indo-American | History of such bills in US
Although India is a non-NATO ally of the United States but the elevation of this ‘special’ relationship is unprecedented. The current NDAA is in line with the Naval Vessel Transfers Act, 2008 which has legislatively committed the US to ensuring Israel enjoys a “qualitatively military edge” over every potential adversary. The United States has been openly supportive of a militarily and economically stronger Israel for obvious purposes.
Indo-American | What does this Act bring for India?
- US Congress is virtually binding the future American Presidents, whatever their alliances or foreign policies are in real, to nurture India-US defence ties.
- India amendment directs the US Department of Defence (the Pentagon) and Department of State to sustain and prioritize defence cooperation with India through a specified series of policies and actions.
- These include: recognizing India’s status as “a major defence partner of the United States”, designating an official to ensure the success of the “Framework for the United States-India Defence Relationship”, to “approve and facilitate the transfer of advanced technology”, and to “strengthen the effectiveness of the US-India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTT) and the durability of the (Pentagon’s) India Rapid Reaction Cell”.
- The passage of the India amendment makes it obligatory for all US administrations to do so.
Indo-American | Ramifications on India-US defence ties
- India recognized as a “major defence partner of the United States” which includes ambiguity but a positive connotation to it.
- The act has designated US defence officials to ensure success of US-India Framework Agreement on Defence. This clause acts as a confidence building measure between the two partners.
- It also mandates to support combined US-India military planning for non-combat operations which calls for close and deeper coordination between the two armed forces.
- It calls to promote US-India weapons interoperability which is essential to boost a cooperative defence framework between the two countries.
- An important clause calls for boosting cooperation with India “to advance US interests in South Asia and greater Indo-Asia-Pacific regions.” This is a strategic manoeuvring to converge India-US interest in the South China Sea and the broader Asian region.
- Strengthening of “Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI)” would ensure sharing of defence technology and help in realisation of our mission of ‘Make in India’.
- The clause which calls for the development of “mutually agreeable mechanisms” to verify security of US-supplied defence equipment and technology would ensure quality transfer and predictability in procurement.
- Annual report to Congress on how the US Government is supporting defence ties. This would ensure a consistent and predictable future for the security ties with a new seal of accountability attached to it. This would reduce deviations in approach towards India with respect to change in administrations in the US.
- For the last decade, a consensus has been growing among America’s soldiers, spies and diplomats that a stronger and more capable Indian military is in America’s national security interest.
- The introduction of such an act underlines bipartisan Congressional consensus that India-US relationship is a defining partnership of the 21st
Indo-American | Criticism
- There has been criticism that the India amendment makes no change to the US Arms Export Control Act, which places India in the category of countries to which arms sales require a 30-day notification to the US Congress; rather than the more favoured nation that require only a 15-day notification.
- Hence, there would be a problem for India in case of high volume procurement of arms from the US in case it cannot wait for an extra 15 days’ approval period (events such as war).
But the US officials have confirmed that this distinction has absolutely no effect on the level of technology transfer.
In the light of a growing bonhomie between the United States and India, this amendment to the NDAA is another stamp of appeal to the military and government circles of India to approach proactively towards the US overtures towards India. America understands that India is the most potent ally in the Asian region to contain China and without taking India into confidence, it would not be an easy task to promote the ‘pivot to Asia’ that it desires. But for both India and the US, the interests converge only at the East, whereas the positions and interests in the West of India are divergent and inconsistent.