The US Defence Department said in a statement that the proposed changes in National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), 2017 would make it easier for America to sell defence equipment to India. According to the statement, the US is also interested in technology transfer, as Washington considers the South Asian country as its most important strategic ally in the region.
Although the US lawmakers have increased restrictions on military assistance for Pakistan and blocked USD 450 million in aid, they are ready to strengthen defence co-operation with neighbouring India. Speaking at a press conference in Washington over the weekend, Congressman George Holding said that the House of Representatives would soon codify its ‘Asia pivot’ strategy in order to boost the Indian defence sector. They believe that the move would ultimately help New Delhi (and Washington) countering Beijing’s expansionism in the region.
Earlier, Congressmen Holding and Ami Bera (of House India Caucus chairs), together with Chair and ranking member of House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce and Elliot Engel, proposed the amendment, saying that the US should boost defence and security co-operation with India in order to promote greater bilateral defence trade. They also expressed hope that the proposed amendment in the Bill would encourage additional military co-operation between the two “friendly” nations.
Holding informed the press that the Congress recently asked its executive branch to designate an official for focussing on Indo-US defence co-operation, as it would be crucial to facilitate the transfer of technology. The Pentagon, too, has been asked to set up a special office for monitoring the bilateral Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) – the centrepiece of the military tie-up between India and the US.
“Given the dynamic nature of the Indo-Pacific region and its importance to our own national security and future economic growth, now is the time to build on recent successes and propel the US-India strategic partnership forward,” stressed the senior Congressman.
The amendment states: “The secretary of defence and secretary of state shall jointly, on an annual basis, conduct an assessment of the extent to which India possesses strategic operational capabilities to support military operations of mutual interest between the US and India.” It also calls for “approving and facilitating the transfer of advanced technology, consistent with US conventional arms transfer policy, to support combined military planning with the Indian military for missions, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter piracy and maritime domain awareness missions”.