On June 8 Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be addressing a joint meeting of the US Congress followed by lunches and meetings with top Congressional leaders. The visit would in itself be a historic one. But that visit has now become all the more significant because of a decision by the US House of Representatives that would potentially influence the strategic structure of Asia itself.
On May 19 (May 20 in India) the US House of Representatives approved an amendment to National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA)-2017 – a legislation that would bring India on par with US’ NATO allies.
Once India gets that status, defence trade would get a major boost. In the Republican dominated House, Congressman George Holding spoke on how the amendment would make the US strengthen defence ties with India and allow Washington to make combined military planning with New Delhi.
While NATO members are military allies, this amendment won’t make India a similar ally of the United States meaning that India won’t have to send troops to fight battles the US gets involved in. Simply put, this amendment will simplify the defence trade and planning process between the two countries. The resolution was introduced in the House by Holding in March
US has its own reasons for bringing India on par with its NATO allies. One major reason is the growing might of China in Asia.
To counter the rise of the Dragon, the United States needs to establish stronger diplomatic and strategic ties with other Asian countries. Incidentally, India is the only Asian country with a long history of rule of democracy and politically peaceful climate.
On the other hand, Pakistan’s untrustworthiness as an ally has been a bit of bother for Washington.
While Islamabad claims to be a victim of terror, it has been proved conclusively that the country’s security establishment is in itself involved in carrying out terrorist activities on foreign soil. Moreover, Islamabad’s growing proximity with Beijing too has been under the US scanners. China is constructing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan, which will give Beijing a direct access to the along the Arabian Sea – the entire Middle East and East Africa – besides giving PLA an upper hand in the Indian Ocean Region.
This is why on the same day, the House voted to increase restrictions on military assistance for Pakistan.
At the same time the House decided that a $450 million in aid should be blocked if Islamabad continues behaving like an incorrigibly peckish child and does not agree to US demands.
Now, the bill will be presented before the US Senate, where too it is expected to pass. It would then need the signature of President Barack Obama to become a law.
Once that happens, a new office in pentagon will be created to exclusively handle US-India defence cooperation. While Congressman Ami Bera of the Democratic Party (House India Caucus Chairs), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Elliot Engel sponsored the amendment in the House of Representatives, Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn (Senate India Caucus Chairs) introduced a similar bill in the Senate, backed by Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
All of this shows that both the major US parties are together interested in bringing India to the NATO level. All in all, that’s a good sign for the Modi government which has set for itself certain ambitious goals such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ which can be quickly achieved with US cooperation.