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Senate India Caucus Pushes NATO Plus Designation For India; Jaishankar Says No

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Senate India Caucus Pushes NATO Plus Designation For India; Jaishankar Says No

WASHINTON, DC (IANS) – A bipartisan duo of US senators will introduce legislation this week proposing to add India to the NATO Plus group of American allies, disregarding opposition from New Delhi.

Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the India Caucus in the Senate, said on June 20 that he and Senator John Cornyn, the Republican co-chair, will be introducing “both as a stand-alone bill and as an amendment to the (National) Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and effort to upgrade India-US defense ties”.

“What we propose is adding India to the so-called NATO Plus arrangement where the United States is able to transfer with as little bureaucratic interference as possible defense equipment in a very strong way.”

This current relationship, he added, is restricted only to US’ ties with NATO and with certain other key allies such as Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

“Adding India to that category will strengthen our incredibly important defence ties, particularly as we both grapple with challenges” from China.

The lawmakers intend the legislation to be a part of the celebration of Prime Minister Modi’s visit, but India does not want to be added to that group.

“That is not a template that applies to India,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said at a recent news conference. Jaishankar expressed opposition to the idea and said the Joe Biden administration did not support it either.

“So I must say, much of it is outside the administration. The administration understands this very, very well. So we have a situation where actually in many areas, the administration has been very forthright, very understanding, very cooperative.”

When asked specifically about the minister’s remarks, the Senator did not directly address Jaishankar’s opposition to India’s inclusion in the group.

Warner replied instead by stressing the general need to improve defense ties with India and improve India’s defense capabilities by making defense trade between the two countries easier. There was a need to improve defense ties, he said, as he had heard from Indian defense companies, and defense companies owned by Indian Americans and even Indian defense officials.

Membership of the NATO Plus group will considerably shorten the approval procedures for the sale of US defence equipment, specially those subjected to export controls.

Warner and Cornyn’s legislation — both stand-alone and as an amendment to the NDAA — will need to pass both chambers of the US Congress before it becomes law. There is already some support for it in the other chamber, the House of Representatives, whose committee on China recommended adding India to NATO Plus earlier in June.

This proposed legislation will not be the first. Earlier efforts failed because of opposition from some key lawmakers.

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  • India’s denial is understandable due its strong ties with Russia. Notwithstanding, it is a great honor for India.

    June 22, 2023

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