US House of Representatives approves Ro Khanna’s amendment on CAATSA waiver to India
In an overwhelming majority, the House voted 330 to 99 in favour of the amendment. However, for it to become a part of the law, the Act will have to be passed in both the House and the Senate
With a resounding majority, the United States (US) House of Representatives has approved Congressman Ro Khanna’s amendment to the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), proposing the deepening of defence ties between India and the United States, highlighting China’s threat against India’s security, and an India-specific waiver under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The House voted 330 to 99 in favour of the amendment. To be sure, this is not yet a part of the law — the Act will have to be passed in both the House and the Senate, and the different versions passed in the two chambers will then be reconciled in a compromise legislation.
But the support for Khanna’s amendment is seen as signal of political support for the India-US strategic partnership on Capitol Hill, the home of the US legislative branch.
The NDAA is the umbrella legislation that defines the agencies responsible for America’s defence, determines funding for these agencies particularly the Department of Defense (DoD), and frames the broad policies for the use of the funding. In June, the House Armed Services Committee approved the Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. NDAA 2023, if and when passed, will provide over $800 billion for US national defence.
As HT reported on July 8, in his amendment, Khanna, an Indian-American Congressman and a member of the House Armed Services Act, proposed a sub-section that says the strong US-India defence partnership, “rooted in shared democratic values”, is critical to advancing US interests in the Indo-Pacific. The partnership must be strengthened “in response to increasing threats in the Indo-Pacific regions, sending an unequivocal signal that sovereignty and international law be respected”.
Khanna’s amendment also lauded the US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (ICET) — announced during the Tokyo summit between President Joe Biden and President Narendra Modi — as a “welcome and essential step” to forge closer partnerships between the two countries in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, aerospace and semiconductor manufacturing. “Such collaborations between engineers and computer scientists are vital to help ensure that the United States and India, as well as other democracies around the world, foster innovation and facilitate technological advances which continue to far outpace Russian and Chinese technology.”
In a section titled “Border Threats from China and reliance on Russian weapons”, Khanna’s amendment proposes that the Congress recognise that India faces “immediate and serious regional border threats from China, with continued military aggression by the Government of China along the India-China border”. It adds that the US should take additional steps additional steps to encourage India “to accelerate India’s transition off Russian-built weapons and defense systems” while strongly supporting India’s immediate defence needs.
In the final section of his amendment, the amendment proposes that while India faces immediate needs to maintain its “heavily Russia-built weapon systems”, a waiver to sanctions under CAATSA is in the best interests of the US and US-India defence partnership “to deter aggressors” in light of Russia and China’s close partnership. While the authority to waive off sanctions under CAATSA lies with the executive, the support within the Congress for an India-specific exemption under a legislation will send a political signal.