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The US annual defence budget of about $621.5 billion for FY18 has been passed by the House of Representatives and, among other things, it seeks advancing of military cooperation with India, already a major defence partner of the US. An amendment on enhancing cooperation with India was moved by Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera and was adopted by a voice vote by the House as part of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018, beginning October 1 this year. The NDAA-2018 was passed by the House 344-81. “The US is the world’s oldest democracy and India is the world’s largest democracy. It is vitally important to develop a strategy that advances defence cooperation between our two nations,” Bera said. “I am grateful this amendment is passed and look forward to the defence department’s strategy that addresses critical issues like common security challenges, the role of partners and allies, and areas for collaboration in science and technology,” he added. “Cooperation between the US and India enhances our own defence and our ability to meet the evolving security challenges of the 21st century,” Bera said. Following the passage of the NDAA, the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State have 180 days to develop a strategy for advancing defence cooperation between the US and India. The NDAA needs to be passed by the Senate before it can be sent to the White House for the US President Donald Trump to sign into law.
As passed by the House, the NDAA-2018 asks the State Department and the Pentagon to develop a strategy that addresses common security challenges, the role of American partners and allies in the India-US defence relationship, and the role of the defence technology and trade initiatives.It also asks them to address how to advance the communications interoperability and security memorandum of agreement and the basic exchange and cooperation agreement for geospatial cooperation. The NDAA-2017 had designated India as a major defence partner, which brings India at par with closest American partners in terms of defence trade and technology transfer. Meanwhile, a senior defence official on Friday said that India and US defence relationship is on positive track. “... (As) we look at the global order, and when we look at the evolving security environment within Asia, India’s rise and role (is) evolving, (and) we see the United States and India increasingly viewing the region in the same way, and our interests are very much aligned,” said Cara Abercrombie, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia. Addressing a New York audience, she said the relationship created a high level of dialogue in the Pentagon on a range of issues.