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This article was first published 8 years ago  » News » New bill in US Congress to ease arms sales to India

New bill in US Congress to ease arms sales to India

By Aziz Haniffa
May 11, 2016 13:49 IST
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In a powerful signal to New Delhi that the United States is a reliable defence partner, Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn introduced US-India Defense Technology and Partnership Act in Senate.
Aziz Haniffa/ reports from Washington, DC.

IMAGE: An F-16 fighter from the US Air Force 510th Fighter Squadron takes off from Amari air base. Photograph: Ints Kalnins/Reuters

US Senator Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, co-chair of the Senate India Caucus has called on the Obama administration to put India on par with America's closest defence partners, including North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies and Israel, for the purpose of Congressional defecse sales notifications.

Warner, co-opting the Republican co-chair of the India Caucus, Senator John Cornyn, Texas Republican, introduced the US-India Defence Technology and Partnership Act, S-2901, which institutionalises the US government's focus on the US-India security relationship, while sending a powerful signal to New Delhi that the US is a reliable and dependable defence partner.

For the US, it encourages the executive branch to: Ddesignate an official to focus on US-India defence cooperation, facilitate the transfer of defence technology, maintain a special office in the Pentagon dedicated exclusively to the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, enhance India's military capabilities in the context of combined military planning, and promote co-production/co-development opportunities.

For India, it encourages the government to authorise combined military planning with the US for missions of mutual interest such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter piracy, and maritime domain awareness.

The bill also puts India on par with America's closest defence partners, including NATO members and Israel, for the purpose of congressional defense sales notifications.

Warner, who has emerged as India's champion on Capitol Hill, argued that his legislation was a 'no-brainer,' saying, 'As an important partner with a flourishing economy, India has huge potential as a market for American defense manufacturers, which support millions of American jobs.'

'This bill supports strengthening our bilateral relationship, particularly in defence, and bestows upon India the status it deserves as a partner in promoting security in Asia and around the world,' the Senator added.

In March, Warner voted for a resolution aimed at blocking the Obama administration's decision to sell 8 F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, but Cornyn voted against it, saying, he did so in America's 'national interests.'

Citing a provision in the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican had attempted to win Senate approval of his Resolution of Disapproval on the sale.

"I voted with Senator Paul -- not 'with' Senator Paul specifically -- because of my grave concerns about Pakistan's behaviour,' Warner explained after the vote.

However, the Senate voted overwhelmingly by 71-24 to table Senator Paul's Resolution of Disapproval, pushing it to the backburner, which essentially gave the administration the green light to go ahead with the sale.

Last week, the Obama administration in an about-face, said if Pakistan wanted the planes, they would have to pay for it and it would not be subsidised by US taxpayers.

When the Paul bill was being debated, Warner made a most passionate appeal on the Senate floor in support of this resolution.

In his intervention, Warner warned, 'If we move forward with these sales without putting some markers down, I think we potentially not only do damage to holding Pakistan's feet to the fire in terms of the threat of terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region, but also potentially could do damage to one of the most important relationships our country has, and that is the strategic relationship between the US and India.'

'This relationship has been one of enormous growing importance. India has been a valuable and strategic partner of the United States and is a tremendous ally in promoting global peace and security,' the Senator added.

'That has not always been the case. Relations between our two nations have been steadily improving over the past decade, ranging from approvals of the civilian nuclear agreement to frequent coordination between our militaries and at this point, over $100 billion in bilateral trade,' Warner said.

'Nowhere is the potential for our strategic relationship greater than in our bilateral defence relationship, which again, has seen great progress over the last decade,' the Senator noted, adding, 'Last year our two nations signed the framework that will advance military-to-military exchanges.'

'We're also proceeding with joint development of defence technology which seeks to increase defence sales and create a cooperative technology and industrial relationship that can promote both the capability in the United States and in India,' he said.

'As recently as January of this year,' Warner said, 'Pakistan-based terrorists claimed responsibility for an attack against an Indian military base at Pathankot. It resulted in the killing of Indian military forces and a great tragedy.'

Last month, speaking at an Atlantic Council conference, Warner pointed out, 'One of the great assets that India has is its enormous intellectual content, enormous intellectual developmental content, and some of the things we need to be working on are unmanned systems, for example, the enormous opportunities for us to jointly partner and develop -- not simply sell our equipment to India -- but actually partner and develop in areas such as drones, areas like advanced aircraft and even areas around certain missile systems, where we can have a win-win.'

In such a context, the Senator felt, 'India can build its national capacity around the prime minister's 'Make in India', where we can provide the commercial capital assets, and this kind of joint collaboration and cooperation really is an area which offers great potential.'

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC