The US House of Representatives approved legislation that is set to elevate its defence ties with India. The move on 20 May puts the south Asian country on par with Nato allies, as well as Israel, in terms of defence equipment sale and technology transfer.
The amendment on "Enhancing Defence and Security Cooperation with India" was approved weeks before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's scheduled visit to the US on 8 June. While there, Modi will become the fifth Indian prime minister to address a joint meeting of the US Congress, with the last one taking place in 2005 by Manmohan Singh.
Speaking about the amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act, Congressman George Holding said: "It seeks to promote greater defence trade and encourage additional military cooperation between the United States and India.
"I believe that by requiring our government to take actions such as strengthening defence, technology and trade Initiative and encouraging combined military planning with India, we can make certain that the US-India defence relationship endures."
According to the Press Trust of India, the amendment will encourage the designation of a US official that will focus solely on US-India defence coorperation and facilitate the transfer of defence technology. The official is also expected to have an office in the Pentagon that will be dedicated to the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
The amendment was sponsored by Holding, Ami Bera from the House India Caucus Chairs, and Ed Royce (chair) and Elliot Engel (ranking member) of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The legislation also encourages the Indian government to allow combined military planning with the US, particularly for humanitarian and disaster relief missions, as well as counter-piracy and maritime domain awareness operations.
Speaking about the benefits of the defence agreement to the US, Holding told the House of Representatives: "Given the dynamic nature of the Indo-Pacific region and its importance to our own national security and future economic growth, now is the time to build on recent successes and propel the US-India strategic partnership forward."
On the same day, Reuters reported that US lawmakers were seeking to pass a defence policy bill that would put restrictions on military aid for Pakistan, India's neighbour and rival. The move comes as some expressed frustration with Islamabad's failure to crack down on Afghanistan's extremist Haqqani network and looks to block $450m ($309m) in aid to the country unless they take urgent action to fight the militants.