**US lawmakers seek NATO ally status for India
WASHINGTON: US lawmakers on Thursday approved amendments to a defence bill that seeks to bring India on a par with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) allies for sale of defence equipment and technology transfer, even as they voted to increase restrictions on military assistance for Pakistan , including immediately blocking $450 million in aid, unless certain conditions are met.**
The passage of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), 2017, was the scene of much action relating to the Indian subcontinent and Asia Pacific region, as lawmakers moved to codify Washington’s Asia pivot, a strategy that includes strengthening New Delhi’s military muscle implicitly aimed at countering Beijing’s expansionism.
Sponsored by George Holding and Ami Bera (House India Caucus chairs) and the chair and ranking member of House foreign affairs committee, Ed Royce and Elliot Engel, respectively, the amendment (enhancing defense and security cooperation with India) seeks to promote greater defence trade and encourage additional military cooperation between the US and India . It encourages the executive branch to designate an official to focus on US-India defence cooperation, facilitate the transfer of technology, and maintain a special office in the Pentagon dedicated exclusively to the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), the centrepiece of the military tie-up between the two countries.
"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," US Congressman Holding said while moving the amendment, that, among other things, requires the administration to take “such actions as may be necessary to recognise India’s status as a major defence partner of the US”.
“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,” the amendment advised, while calling 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”.
The bill is by no means law yet. A similar bill, introduced by Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn, and cosponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, is making it way through Senate, and after the two versions of the larger NDAA are reconciled, it will go to the White House for President Obama’s signature of approval. However, the omnibus $602 billion NDAA also contains severe unrelated strictures on Pakistan and recommends restrictions on the country that the US administration is not entirely comfortable with.
Expressing frustration with Pakistan’s failure to crack down on terrorist groups, lawmakers moved to squeeze military aid for Pakistan, including blocking a $450 million tranche, unless certain conditions are met.
The amendments now require the Pentagon to certify that Pakistan is conducting military operations to disrupt the Haqqani network, not letting the network use North Waziristan as a safe haven, actively coordinate with Afghanistan’s government to fight the network along their border, and certify Pakistan is not using its military or any funds or equipment provided by the United States to persecute minority groups.