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US Congress passes $700 bn defence bill; seeks to advance ties with India

The NDAA-2018 makes $350 million available to Pakistan, to take steps against the Haqqani Network.

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

US Congress passes $700 bn defence bill; seeks to advance ties with India

The today passed a nearly $700 billion American budget for 2018, which, among other things, seeks advancement in cooperation with

The 2018 National Authorisation Act (NDAA) sailed through both the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate by a voice vote.

It now heads to the for President to sign it into law, which he is expected to do before the Thanksgiving holidays.

The budget also imposes tougher conditions on for military and security assistance and accommodates last minute additional White House's financial request implementing its new strategy.

The NDAA-2018 asks the Secretary of State and the Secretary to come out with a common definition that recognises India's status as a "Major Partner".

Welcoming the move, top Republican Senator said few partnerships in the 21st century carried more strategic significance than the US-partnership.

During the legislative process, Cruz secured an amendment that calls on the Department of to reassess its approach to partnering with and to appoint an individual to oversee this process.

Additionally, Cruz co-sponsored Senator Mark Warners amendment, which was adopted, to develop a strategy of cooperation between the US and

The NDAA-2018 also asks the Pentagon to develop a "forward-looking" strategy for ties with "that would build upon current objectives and goals, underlining a mutual desire to develop an enduring relationship with India".

According to it, the two countries "should work closely with Afghanistan" to promote stability in the region to include targeted infrastructure development and economic investment, means to address capability gaps in the country, and improved humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

The US had designated as a "Major Partner" in its military budget for 2017.

In its latest conference report, the Congressional leaders said that the designation is unique to India, and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate trade and technology co-operation between the two nations to a level equivalent with the closest allies of the US.

"The designation promotes joint exercises, strategy and policy coordination, military exchanges, and port calls in support of cooperation between the and India," it said.

The NDAA-2018 also makes $350 million available to under coalition support fund (CSF) contingent upon certification from the secretary of that is taking demonstrable steps against the

In the last two years, two successive US secretaries and his successor Jim Mattis

refused to give such a certification to Pakistan, in the absence of Islamabad taking demonstrable and satisfactory actions against the

An accompanying conference report passed by the House and the Senate notes that action on the part of against Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as other terrorist groups operating within the borders of Pakistan, remains a priority for the

It urged the Department of Defense to closely monitor US security assistance to Pakistan, to ensure that is not using such assistance to support terrorist groups, and "to take appropriate measures to demonstrate to the Pakistani military the consequences of continuing to support" such terrorist organisations.

The report also sought from the Secretary of to ensure that is not using any assistance provided by the to persecute minority groups.

First Published: Fri, November 17 2017. 07:42 IST