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Bill moved in US senate to bring India on a par with NATO allies

NATO
Arm sales move to change relevant sections on foreign military sales in National Defence Authorization Act 2020
New Delhi: Two top US senators have moved an amendment to change the US Armed Controls Export Act to bring India on a par with NATO allies, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Korea for purposes of selling military items under the ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) list.

The bipartisan amendment moved by Democrat Senator Mark Warner and Republican Senator John Cornyn on Thursday seeks to bring the change through an amendment to the relevant sections on foreign military sales in the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) 2020.

Those aware of the details told ET that this will now kickstart the process of deliberations for the conference process in which the Senate and House versions of the NDAA will be reconciled. If the amendment makes it through this process, then it will signal a big shift in Indo-US relations.

There are two technology control lists in the US system – one is under the Export Administration Regulations, which places controls on the sale of dual-use items that have both civil and military uses and the second is the ITAR list. The civil nuclear deal paved the way for India to access items on the first set of lists.

The Major Defence Partner status allowed the Pentagon to move on sales of highly sensitive military items to India. However, the licensing and approval process was quite elaborate. Also, the Department of State, which goes by the Arms Export Control (AEC) Act would raise questions.

The AEC Act governs the ITAR list. The only countries where the President enjoys considerable executive freedom for such sales are the NATO allies, Australia, Israel, New Zealand and Korea. This is how inventories also remain wellstocked in these countries for realtime operations.

The amendment, if it goes through, will make it possible for the US to fulfil India’s operational requirements in quick time, thus improving its reliability on supplies.

This text of the amendment states: “The Arms Export Control Act is amended— (1) in sections 3(d)(2) (B), 3(d)(3)(A)(i), 3(d)(5), 21(e)(2)(A), 36(b)(1), 36(b)(2), 36(b)(6), 36(c)(2) (A), 36(c)(5), 36(d)(2)(A), 62(c)(1), and 63(a)(2), by inserting ‘‘India,’’ before ‘‘or New Zealand’’ each place it appears; (2) in section 3(b)(2), by inserting ‘‘the Government of India,’’ before ‘‘or the Government of New Zealand’’; and (3) in sections 21(h)(1)(A) and 21(h)(2), by inserting ‘‘India,’’ before ‘‘or Israel’’ each place it appears.

The amendment is expected to gain traction also because India and US have also signed the COMCASA (Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement) and are in detailed discussions over BECA (Basic Exchange Cooperation Agreement). Both are foundational agreements for defence cooperation with the US.

Under the COMCASA, the US has already set up a secure link between the Indian Navy headquarters and the US Pacific Command to share real-time information. Also, the Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module GPS was also cleared for the C-17s and C-130s. Both sides are in discussions to set up a COMCASA register.

These are developments, sources said, which will strengthen the case for the amendment to go through. Those supporting the Bill are also counting on the fact that both Warner and Cornyn are senior senators and are taken very seriously by all stakeholders.

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