India is fighting an uphill battle in Washington despite the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) of the US Congress amending the Russia sanctions act to include provisions for a presidential waiver.
HASC’s marked-up version of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for 2019 has suggested amendment to section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), allowing the administration to grant waivers for “180 day”. This would mean an exception every six months.
The Act has included the S-400 triumf missile defence system, for which India is in its final stages of negotiations with Russia, in the list of advance conventional weapon systems. Trade in these items with Russia would attract sanctions on the third country.
The waiver, for which India has been lobbying hard given its strong defence relationship with Russia, lays a string of conditions, including a determination by the US President that such an exception would be in the interest of American national security.
The Section 1236 of NDAA, which inserts this amendment in the CAATSA, also states that the foreign country in question must show a reducing trend of dependence on Russian supplies.
On the other hand, Section 1246 of NDAA specifically conveys a ‘sense of the Congress’ to the US defence secretary to conduct a quadrilateral naval exercise involving US, India, Japan and Australia in the strategic expanse now referred to as the Indo-Pacific for securing freedom of navigation from Chinese aggressive posturing. Section 1247 authorises the US administration to rechristen the US-Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command.
NDAA conveys to the US administration to “explore joint regional infrastructure initiatives” in the region and develop new capabilities to deter and defend against threats.
As of changing the name of the Pacific Command, the Act embraces the Indo-US vision by seeking a change from next year. “The combatant command known as the United States Pacific Command shall, beginning January 1, 2020, be known as the US Indo-Pacific Command.”
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