International Relations Current Affairs

US House of Representatives passes Bill on defence co-operation with India

The United States House of Representatives has passed an amendment to National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA), 2018, a $621.5 billion defence expenditure bill to advance defence cooperation with India.

India related amendment in the bill was adopted by a voice vote in the House by 344-81. Now, NDAA needs to be passed by the US Senate before it can be sent to US President Donald Trump to sign into law.

Key Facts

The India-related amendment in NDAA 2018, requires the US Secretary of Defence, in consultation with the Secretary of State to develop a strategy for advancing defence cooperation between US and India.

The amendment asks the State Department and Pentagon to develop a strategy to addresses common security challenges, the role of US partners and allies in India-US defence relationship, and role of the defence technology and trade initiative. It also asks them to address issues to advance communications interoperability and security memorandum of agreement and the basic exchange and cooperation agreement for geospatial cooperation.

National Defense Authorisation Act

The NDAA is a United States federal law specifying the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defence. Each year’s NDAA also includes other provisions. The US Congress oversees the defence budget primarily through two yearly bills: the NDAA and Defense appropriations bills.

They are authorization bill that determines the US agencies responsible for defence, establishes funding levels and sets the policies under which money will be spent. The NDAA-2017 had designated India as a major defence partner of US. This designation had brought India at par with closest partners of US in terms of defence trade and technology transfer.

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India’s defence commitment to Bhutan

The present standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam (located at the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan) has highlighted India’s very special relationship with Bhutan, including military responsibilities.

Background

In June 2017 Chinese Army (People’s Liberation Army) construction party had entered the Doklam area and attempted to construct a road. Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) patrol had attempted to dissuade them from this unilateral activity. Later Bhutan underlinined that the construction of the road inside Bhutanese territory was a direct violation of the 1988 and 1998 agreements between Bhutan and China and affected the process of demarcating the boundary between these two countries. Since these developments, India and Bhutan have been in continuous contact, giving a view of India’s role in Bhutan’s security and matters of mutual interest.

India’s defence commitment to Bhutan

Under the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty, both countries have agreed to cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. It provides that, neither Government will allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.

Under the previous treaty, India was to guide Bhutan on foreign and defence policies. The 2007 treaty is meant to respect the sensitivities of Bhutan regarding its sovereignty. In reality, it gives India virtual responsibility to protect Bhutan from the kind of external threat including threat from Chinese military.

Moreover, the Eastern Army Command and the Eastern Air Command of India have integrated protection of Bhutan into their role. The Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT), headed by a Major General also plays a critical role in training Bhutanese security personnel.

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