Two US senators introduce legislations to strengthen India-US defence ties

PTI, Jun 30, 2020, 12:28 PM IST

Washington DC: Two top senators from the ruling Republican and opposition Democratic parties have introduced legislations to strengthen the India-US defence ties, especially in the area of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft and to accelerate joint research and development in the military field.

Moving an amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2021, Senator Mark Warner and Senator John Cornyn asked for an assessment from Defence Secretary Mark Esper whether the Israel-US Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation and Fund provides a model for US-India private sector collaboration on defence and critical technologies.

Warner is Vice Chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee while Cornyn is the Republican Whip. Both are co-chairs of the powerful Senate India Caucus.

Their legislative amendment asks the Defence Secretary to provide a briefing on joint defence and related industrial and technology research and development and personnel exchange opportunities between the US and India.

It also seeks assessment of whether additional funds are necessary for the defence technology and trade initiative for seed funding and personnel exchanges.

Senator Cornyn, in another amendment to NDAA, asked the Defence Secretary to provide India a briefing on the fifth-generation fighter jets programme of the US within 180 days of the passage of the legislation.

The amendment seeks a report from the Pentagon to the Congress on the topics covered in the briefing and recommendations for increasing cooperation between the two countries as India develops its own fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

Cornyn and Warner have moved another amendment jointly to include India in the list of NATO plus countries like Israel and New Zealand when it comes to exporting top-secret American defence technology and equipment to India.

Another resolution moved by Senator John Sullivan seeks expansion of defence-specific engagement in multilateral frameworks, including the quadrilateral dialogue among the US, India, Japan and Australia to promote regional security and defend shared values and common interests in the rules-based order.

Seeking to pursue strategic initiatives to help develop the defence capabilities of India, the resolution says that the US conducts additional combined exercises with India in the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and western Pacific regions.

The resolution also urges the Pentagon to focus on several priority areas for cooperation, including Air-Launched Small Unmanned Aerial Systems, Lightweight Small Arms Technologies, and Intelligence Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance.

“The US should commend India on its recent, continued, and positive trajectory on decreasing purchases of Russian-made weapons systems and encourage them to be mindful of when considering future purchases of Russian-made systems,” Sullivan’s amendment said.

An amendment to NDAA 2021 moved by Senator Cory Gardner supports India against the Chinese aggression in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh and says that the two countries should work toward de-escalating the situation along the Line of Actual Control.

“The expansion and aggression of the People’s Republic of China in and around disputed territories, such as the LAC, the South China Sea, the Senkaku Islands, is of significant concern,” says the amendment.

According to the resolution, “in the months leading up to June 15, 2020, along the LAC, China reportedly amassed 5,000 soldiers; and is believed to have crossed into previously disputed territory considered to be settled as part of India under the 1962 truce.”

The US has made meaningful progress in strengthening its major defence partnership with India by maintaining a broad-based strategic partnership, underpinned by shared interests and objectives in promoting a rules-based international system and establishing the joint/tri-service exercise, Tiger TRIUMPH, focused on amphibious operations, the amendment said.

It also praised the US government for building joint peacekeeping capacity efforts; enhancing US-India maritime domain awareness cooperation; leveraging the secure communications equipment enabled by the communications compatibility and security agreement; installing liaison officers at US Naval Forces Central Command and the maritime Information Fusion Centre of India and establishing a secure hotline for the four 2+2 ministers.

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