The 2018 National Defence
Authorisation Act (NDAA) sailed through both the chambers of the Congress
House of Representatives and the Senate by a voice vote.
It now heads to the White House
for President Donald Trump
to sign it into law, which he is expected to do before the Thanksgiving holidays.
The budget also imposes tougher conditions on Pakistan
for military and security assistance and accommodates last minute additional White House's financial request implementing its new South Asia
The NDAA-2018 asks the Secretary of State and the Defence
Secretary to come out with a common definition that recognises India's status as a "Major Defence
Welcoming the move, top Republican Senator Ted Cruz
said few partnerships in the 21st century carried more strategic significance than the US-India
During the legislative process, Cruz secured an amendment that calls on the Department of Defence
to reassess its approach to partnering with India
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 defence
cooperation between the US and India.
The NDAA-2018 also asks the Pentagon to develop a "forward-looking" strategy for defence
ties with India
"that would build upon current objectives and goals, underlining a mutual desire to develop an enduring defence
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.
In its latest conference report, the Congressional leaders said that the designation is unique to India, and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defence
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, defence
strategy and policy coordination, military exchanges, and port calls in support of defence
cooperation between the United States
and India," it said.
The NDAA-2018 also makes $350 million available to Pakistan
under coalition support fund (CSF) contingent upon certification from the secretary of defence
is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network.
In the last two years, two successive US defence
secretaries Ashton Carter
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 Haqqani network.
An accompanying conference report passed by the House and the Senate notes that action on the part of Pakistan
against Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as other terrorist groups operating within the borders of Pakistan, remains a priority for the United States.
It urged the Department of Defense to closely monitor US security assistance to Pakistan, to ensure that Pakistan
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 Defence
to ensure that Pakistan
is not using any assistance provided by the United States
to persecute minority groups.