PM Modi in US: Visit spurs US Senate bill on stronger defence ties through NATO Plus

As Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi is set for talks with President of the United States of America Joe Biden in Washington DC, the India Caucus in the US Senate has prepared a bill that proposes making a part of the NATO Plus bloc.

The Defence Acquisition Council of India has approved the procurement of Predator drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) from the US-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems with an order value of more than USD3 billion. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@MeghUpdates

NATO Plus is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization plus five countries —Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and South Korea. If India is included, the bloc will become NATO Plus 6. India would benefit from being in NATO Plus, because this would give the country access to the best American technology and defence equipment without bureaucratic roadblocks, amid growing challenges from China.

Senator Mark Warner, representing Virginia, told the media yesterday, “Senator (John) Cornyn and I, my co-chair at the (Senate) India Caucus, will be introducing this week both as a standalone bill and as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, an effort to upgrade India-US defence ties.”

“What we propose is adding India to the so-called NATO Plus 5 arrangement, where the United States is able to transfer, with this little bureaucratic interference as possible, defence equipment in a very strong way,” he said.

Senator Warner from the Democratic Party and Senator Cornyn from the Republican Party are co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, the only country-specific Congressional Caucus in the Senate. “This current relationship is only between the United States and NATO and certain other key allies…. India ending into that category strengthens our incredibly important defence ties, particularly as we both grapple with challenges, in particular around China,” said Warner.

Incidentally, it has been very recently reported that India would buy a batch of the weaponised Predator drone from the US. The Defence Acquisition Council last Thursday approved the procurement of the Predator drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) from the US-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems with an order value of more than USD3 billion. The Indian Express reported that the sale now only needed the final approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

The entry into NATO Plus, if it happens, would make the existing India-US defence ties even stronger, as India is seen as a stabilising influence in Asia and a key ally against aggressive movements by China.

Warner said, “I’m looking forward to my opportunities to both visit with Prime Minister Modi and a variety of meetings, hear his presentation to the United States Congress and attend the State Dinner in honour of Prime Minister Modi. Since India’s independence, its relationships with the United States have gone through a variety of phrases.

“We are now at a critical juncture of this relationship, where we need to move beyond the kind of common descriptions of this tie… and turn that into a full-fledged partnership.”