Washington: They clapped and cheered when Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a joint sitting of the Senate and House of Representatives but a legislative amendment that aims to bring US defence sales to India at par with the US’s close allies and NATO members failed to get the the Senate’s nod on June 15.
Called “Enhancing Defence and Security Co-operation with India”, the legislative amendment was moved by Illinois senator Mark Kirk on May 25 as part of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2017.
“Unfortunately the Senator’s amendment was not included in the final NDAA FY17,” a congressional aide to the senator told PTI.
Notably, the US House of Representatives has already passed a similar amendment attached to the NDAA-2017. The two versions of the bill would now have to be reconciled by both the chambers of the Congress through conference. It is only after the common version of the bill is passed that US President Barack Obama would sign that into law.
Another amendment moved by senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that sought to recognise India as a global strategic and defence partner by making necessary modifications to defence export control regulations could not get the Senate’s nod either.
The legislative move is not linked with the recent joint India-US statement in which the Obama administration had recognised India as a “Major Defence Partner”.
The statement was issued last week after the meeting between Obama and Modi at the White House.
As per the joint statement, as ‘major defence partners’, the US will continue to work toward facilitating technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners, it had said.
India, however, downplayed the US Senate rejecting a key amendment recognising the country as “global strategic and defence partner”, saying it would be “premature” to speculate about its final content. External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “We have seen media reports about non-inclusion of an India-related amendment in the consideration of the NDAA by the US Senate. The preparation of the NDAA in the US Congress involves approval of different versions in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and their reconciliation to evolve a single consensual text, which is again put to vote in both chambers.”
He also said that preparation of the NDAA is a process distinct from the decision of the US government to recognise India as a Major Defence Partner. “This was an executive decision and already announced in the India-US joint statement of June 7. A number of senators and congressmen have moved proposals that only seek to reinforce this decision of the US government. It reflects the bipartisan support in the US Congress for stronger defence cooperation between India and the US,” Swarup added.
Meanwhile, McCain in a statement expressed disappointment over the fact that even though they had bipartisan support they could not get the proposed changes through the Senate as part of NDAA-2017.
“I regret that the senate was unable to debate and vote on several matters critical to our national security, many of which enjoyed broad bipartisan support,” McCain said without specifically mentioning the legislative amendment related to India.
The McCain amendment said that the relationship between the US and India has developed over the past two decades to become a multifaceted, global, strategic and defence partnership rooted in shared democratic values and the promotion of mutual prosperity, greater economic cooperation, regional peace, security, and stability.