Key Bill to declare India as major defence partner, NATO ally status sail through US Congress

Key Bill to declare India as major defence partner, NATO ally status sail through US Congress

NEW DELHI - A key bill to accord ‘real teeth’ to India’s recently designated status as a ‘major defence partner’ and grant it the same access to defence purchases as America’s closest military allies such as NATO members, Israel, Australia and a few others, passed a crucial stage in the US Congress on Wednesday.

The legislative measure was moved by Eliot Engel, the senior-most Democrat on the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives as an amendment to the International; Security Assistance Act 2018, which was a among bunch of bills reported to the full House in a process called mark up, Hindustan Times has reported.

“The bill adds real teeth to the designation (of India as a major defense partner) at a time when our relationship with India is more important than ever,” said Ami Bera, Indian American Democratic Congressman, in remarks supporting Engels amendment. But Bera also expressed concern at the lack of progress on the issue since the first move, the designation, in 2015 and its subsequent codification into law in 2017.

The next stage in the legislative process is a vote on the floor, which, according to officials, was a decision for the Republican leadership to take. There have been missed opportunities in the past despite bipartisan support for India, as recently as last month when a similar measure had failed for unrelated reasons.

The amending bill requires the President to add a country designated as a ‘major defense partner’, which is India as no other country has been accorded that status by the US yet, to a list of countries afforded speedy clearance of certain defense purchases under the Arms Export Control Act by the state department.

That list specifically and only includes member countries of NATO, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Israel, and New Zealand.