Washington: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's expected visit here next month, four influential American lawmakers have introduced an amendment bill which if passed by Congress would elevate the status of the Indo-US defence ties on par with that of US' other NATO allies.
Moved by Congressmen George Holding, Ed Royce, Eliot Engel and Indian-American Ami Bera, the amendment submitted to the House Committee on Rules on Wednesday institutionalises the US government's focus on US-India security relationship while sending a powerful signal to New Delhi that Washington is a reliable and dependable defence partner.
Aimed at bolstering defence ties between the US and India, the legislation would amend the National Defence Authorisation Act, which is considered a must-pass bill.
The amendment has strong bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, as demonstrated by the fact that the House India Caucus Chairs (Congressmen Holding and Bera) sponsored it along with the Chair and Ranking Member of House Foreign Affairs Committee (Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel, respectively).
For the US, it encourages the executive branch to: designate 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.
"Strengthening the strategic partnership between the US and India is critical to address the shared security challenges our two nations face," Holding said.
"As the world's oldest democracy and the world's largest democracy, the US and India share common values and a growing partnership on many fronts, especially on defence cooperation. India plays a critical role as a strategic partner to the US and as a pillar of stability in South Asia," Bera said.
The move was welcomed by the US-India Business Council.
"The legislation that was originally introduced by Congressman Holding is moving through the legislative process. Now that we have bipartisan support from the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House India Caucus, we believe this amendment has a good chance of making its way into the House's version of the defence authorisation bill," said US-India Business Council President Mukesh Aghi.
Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn, the Senate India Caucus Chairs, introduced a similar bill earlier this week in the Senate.
Modi is expected to visit the US for a bilateral summit with President Barack Obama in June. He may address the joint session of Congress during his visit.