In its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) asked the Pentagon to work with India more on “emerging technologies, readiness, and logistics” within 90 days of the law being passed. This is another sign that politicians on Capitol Hill care about the strategic relationship between India and the US.
In the Senate’s version of the NDAA, cooperation with India was mentioned in the areas of intelligence gathering, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 5G, fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft, and joint research and development (R&D). The secretary of defence has also been asked to give a report on the situation within 180 days to the right committees in the Senate and House of Representatives.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which is in charge of drafting the bill, has suggested that $847 billion be put toward national defence in 2023.
In his comments about the act and the problems the US was having, Democratic committee chair Jack Reed said that China had become the US’s “most significant strategic rival,” while Republican committee ranking member Jim Inhofe said that the Chinese Communist Party was “accelerating the already historic modernization of its military.”
As was the case when the House passed its own version of the NDAA last week, the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act could put sanctions on India if it bought the S-400 missile system from Russia. This amendment asked that these punishments be taken off the table in this case (CAATSA). Even though the president has the power to grant the waiver, the fact that the amendment proposed by Congressman Ro Khanna was passed with 330 votes is seen as sending a political message to the administration.
As part of a separate process, the Senate has now added the language about India to the main text. It will have its own vote on the floor and process for making changes. After that, there will be a meeting to bring together the versions from the Senate and the House.
The Senate version of the NDAA focuses on key policy areas for the future where India and the US want to work together more. This is different from the House amendment, which talks about the current threats India faces, including those from China, and the need to help India move away from Russia. Also, it tells the executive what to do and how to do it.
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Section 1246 of the proposed act, called “Enhancing a Major Defense Partnership with India,” says that the secretary of defence must tell “appropriate personnel” in the department of defence (DOD) to “seek to engage their counterparts” in the ministry of defence (MOD) within 90 days of the section’s passage in order to “expand cooperation on emerging technologies, logistics, and readiness.”
The document goes on to list the things that DOD workers must “at the very least” talk to India about. UAVs, fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft, depot-level maintenance, joint research and development, 5G and Open Radio Access Network Technologies (ORAN), cyber, cold weather capabilities, and any other topic the secretary thinks is important are all on the list.
5G and ORAN have become important parts of bilateral and Quad cooperation between India and the US. This is because both countries want to stop China from dominating the field and offer an alternative. At a time when India and China are fighting in eastern Ladakh, being able to work in cold weather becomes important. Even though there are more conversations between the two countries about UAVs, especially with American defence companies, cyber is still a developing area of convergence. And the focus on joint research and development is seen as a recognition of the scientific expertise that India can bring to the table as well as a recognition that the US needs to be more open to sharing technology, which has been a major obstacle to the relationship’s growth.
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After that, the proposed law says that the secretary must give a briefing to the Senate and House committees within six months and “evaluate the feasibility and advisability” of increasing cooperation with MOD in the areas listed above, as well as opportunities to increase cooperation in other areas.
The secretary is also asked to make a list of the “challenges, including agreements, authorities, and funding,” that must be overcome in order to improve collaboration. The secretary must also tell the committees about security issues to make sure that research and development, intellectual property, and US equipment are all safe.
A clause in the draught law that could help India attract foreign investment and promote “Make in India” in the defence sector tells the secretary to find ways for academia and the business world to work more closely with MOD.
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