Two top American lawmakers have moved a legislation in the Senate, seeking key amendment in the country’s Arms Control Export Act to bring India at par with the US’ NATO allies — Israel, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea — when it comes to sale of high-tech military items.
The necessary amendment to the US Arms Control Act has been moved by Senators Mark Warner from the Democratic Party and John Cornyn from the Republican Party, which if enacted will further institutionalise the recent designation of India as a major defence partner of the US.
The move by Cornyn and Warner comes after India and the US signed the COMCASA (Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement) last year. The two countries are also in advance discussion to sign another foundational agreement of the BECA (Basic Exchange Cooperation Agreement).
It also comes ahead of President Donald Trump’s scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan next week. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also scheduled to visit New Delhi next week.
“It is a significant development,” said Mukesh Aghi, president of US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), the advocacy group, which along with other groups have been working on such legislative changes that would remove current legislative barriers to export of major high-tech defence equipment to India which is normally shared with only a few countries. The passage of this amendment would help in removing such barriers, he said.
“It’s an important signal of US political support for enhancing defense ties but is unlikely to have tangible impact on trade flows in the near term,” said Benjamin Schwartz, from US India Business Council.
The amendment needs to be passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives before it can be signed by the US President into law.
Informed sources said that the amendment moved as part of the National Defense Authorization Act 2020, would sail through the Congress, giving a big boost to India-US defence trade.