Washington, July 26 (IANS) A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the American Congress that seeks to advance the US-India strategic partnership to a new level for collective military planning and maritime security framework, apparently to resist Chinese hegemony in the Indo-Pacific region.
The “United States-India Enhanced Cooperation Act of 2018” was moved by influential Congressman Joe Wilson (Republican), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Wednesday. It has support from Congressman Ami Bera (Democrat) – the longest serving Indian-American in the Congress – and the House India Caucus Co-Chairs, Congressman George Holding (Republican) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat).
If enacted, the legislation would ensure that the US State Department treats India as a “Major Defence Partner” when it considers approval of defence sales to New Delhi.
Wilson’s legislation builds upon India’s Major Defence Partner status, which is currently limited to the Department of Defence’s jurisdiction.
“The bill seeks to approve and facilitate the transfer of advanced technology and strategic capability…and supports combined military planning with India for missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter piracy, freedom of navigation and maritime domain awareness missions, and to promote weapons systems interoperability,” according to its statement of policy.
It also reassures India that the US recognizes the importance of security of supply for major defence capabilities acquired from America and its industries, and “as such will endeavour to not disrupt such supply”.
The bill also proposes collaboration with India in developing mutually agreeable mechanisms to verify the security of defence articles, defence services and related technology, such as appropriate cyber security and end use monitoring arrangements.
“It promotes policies that will encourage the efficient review and authorization of defence sales and export to India and to continue to enhance defence and security cooperation with India in order to advance US interests in the South Asia and greater Indo-Asia-Pacific regions.”
“India is the world’s largest democracy, a pillar of stability in the region, and has shown strong commitments to export control policies. This adjustment to US law will further allow the US-India partnership to flourish in line with our security commitment to the Indo-Pacific region,” Wilson said in his statement.
He said the relationship with India remained “a cornerstone of security in the Indo-Pacific region” and by designating India as a Major Defence Partner, “we can strengthen our alliance and enhance our defence and security cooperation with India”.
He said the bill, if passed, will ensure that the US and India can address emerging common threats, support maritime security in the region and enhance military cooperation for joint exercises and humanitarian assistance.