The Pentagon has been asked by US Congressional leaders to develop a "forward-looking" strategy to form an enduring defence relationship with India. Congressional leaders reconciling the differences between the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA-2018) also asked the US and India to work closely in Afghanistan.
The new version of the NDAA-2018 requires the Secretary of Defence to "develop a forward-looking strategy that would build upon current objectives and goals, underlining a mutual desire to develop an enduring defence relationship with India".
According to it, the US and India "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.
The US Congress in its last NDAA-2017 had designated India as a 'Major Defence Partner'. In its latest conference report, the Congressional leaders on Thursday said that the designation of 'Major Defence Partner' is unique to India, and institutionalises the progress made to facilitate defence trade and technology cooperation between the United States and India to a level commensurate with the closest allies and partners of America.
"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.
Reconciled version of the NDAA-2018 now heads to the House and Senate floor for formal approval, before it is sent to the White House for US President Donald Trump to sign it into a law.
Among other things, it asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to develop a strategy for advancing defence cooperation between the United States and India.