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THE NEWS

Two top United States senators have moved an amendment to change the US Armed Controls Export Act to bring India on a par with NATO allies for purposes of selling military items under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) list.

KEY-HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The bipartisan amendment seeks to bring the change through an amendment to the relevant sections on foreign military sales in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2020.
  • If the amendment makes it through this process, then it will signal a big shift in Indo-United States relations
  • This amendment is expected to gain traction as India and the United States have already signed the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and is also in detailed discussions over Basic Exchange Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC IN ARMS REGULATION (ITAR) LIST:

  • There are two technology control lists in the United States system:
    • Under Export Administration Regulations: It places controls on the sale of dual-use items having both civil and military uses.
    • Under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) List: The civil nuclear deal paved the way for India to access items on the first set of lists.
  • The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) list controls the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List (USML).
  • The US Armed Controls Export Act, enacted in 1976, gives the President of the United States the authority to control the import and export of defense articles and defense services. It governs the ITAR list.

THE IMPACT:

  • Currently, the only countries where the President enjoys considerable executive freedom for such sales are the NATO allies, Australia, Israel, New Zealand, and Korea.
  • The amendment, if it goes through, will make it possible for the United States to fulfill India’s operational requirements in quick time, thus improving its reliability on supplies.
  • Once the amendment gets approved, India will be eligible for purposes of selling military items under the ITAR.

IMPORTANCE OF DEFENCE RELATIONS:

  • Regional Stability: Both countries have a significant stake in ensuring regional stability by retaining the status quo and establishing a rules-based multipolar Asia-Pacific.
  • Upholding Laws: Defense cooperation would further ensure all countries uphold the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), respect territorial sovereignty, and not resort to hegemonic actions
  • Controlling Chinese Influence: Against the backdrop of increasing Chinese territorial assertiveness, the logic of geopolitics dictates that both India and the United States have vital interests in strengthening defense cooperation

NATO:

  • The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance established by the North Atlantic Treaty (also called the Washington Treaty) of April 4, 1949.
  • The member states of NATO are: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, the United States.

THE THREE KINGS:

LEMOA, COMCASA, and BECA are the three foundational defense pacts that a country needs to sign to obtain cutting-edge weapons and communications systems from the US.
LEMOA:

  • The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) is a tweaked India-specific version of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), which the U.S. has with several countries it has a close military to military cooperation
  • It gives access to both countries, to designated military facilities on either side for the purposes of refueling and replenishment
  • The US can refuel their warheads, their ships and aircraft, and others, and if necessary, they can also keep their military equipment on Indian soil.
  • India had signed the LEOMA in August 2016.

COMCASA:

  • COMCASA was signed at the 2+2 dialogue in 2018.
  • It is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
  • It provides the legal framework for the US to part with its sensitive communication equipment and codes to enable the transfer of real-time operational information.

BECA:

  • The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) are for sharing geospatial intelligence information on maps and satellite imaging for defense purposes.
  • It will help to get pinpoint military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons such as cruise and ballistic missiles.
  • India is yet to sign BECA.

CONCLUSION:

India is in the midst of long overdue defense modernization, and this demand-side impetus for US-India defense trade is supplemented by the mutual understanding between India and the US. To further improve the relation, both countries seek to advance shared values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law. The recent development will further be led to the expansion of defense cooperation between the two countries.

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