Army vehicles moving towards Line of Actual Control (LAC) amid border tension with China in Leh on Sept. 27, 2020.(PTI File Photo)
Army vehicles moving towards Line of Actual Control (LAC) amid border tension with China in Leh on Sept. 27, 2020.(PTI File Photo)

US defence bill slams China on LAC aggression

The bill urges Beijing to settle the issue using diplomatic mechanisms and ‘refrain’ from using force and coercion
Hindustan Times, Washington | By Yashwant Raj
UPDATED ON DEC 17, 2020 04:38 AM IST

A US defence spending legislation that has been cleared by both chambers of the US Congress expresses “significant concern” with Chinese aggression along the border with India, and urges Beijing to settle the dispute through “existing diplomatic mechanisms” and “refrain’’ from using force and coercion.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), 2021 seeks to convey this message as an expression of the “sense of Congress”. Though it is neither a demand nor a threat tagged with enforceable consequences, it is a significant show of support for India and solidarity, passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-controlled Senate.

The legislation is now awaiting the signature of President Donald Trump. He has until December 23 to sign the bill into law or veto it, as he has threatened to. However, since the legislations passed both the House and Senate with two-thirds majorities, the measure has enough support to override a presidential veto.

In Section 1206 of the bill titled “Sense of Congress on the aggression of the government of China along the border with India and growing territorial claims” the bill says, “Continued military aggression by the Government of China along the border with India is a significant concern.”

And that the “government of China should work with the government of India toward de-escalating the situation along the Line of Actual Control through existing diplomatic mechanisms and refrain from attempting to settle disputes through coercion or force”.

It goes on to point to China’s other aggressive actions in the region and around, and says that Congress believes that “attempts by the Government of China to advance baseless territorial claims, including those in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and with respect to Bhutan, are destabilizing and inconsistent with international law”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the NDAA last Friday, starting the 10-day notice period for the President to sign it.

Trump has threatened to veto the bill if it did not contain provision taking away immunity enjoyed by social media platforms from prosecution for content published by them, under Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act. He wants to punish Twitter, Facebook and other platforms for censoring and labelling objectionable content published by him and his conservative allies.

The $740 billion defence spending bill doesn’t contain that provision, in a rare joint snub by both Republicans and Democrats, which has set up a confrontation with lawmakers of both parties, who are determined to override his veto.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Indian American member of the House of the Representatives who led the effort to include this language int the bill, said in a statement, “Violent aggression is seldom the answer, and this is especially true for the Line of Actual Control, which is the disputed border region that separates the People’s Republic of China from India.”

He added that the inclusion of this language in the bill and its enactment by the US government will send a clear signal that “China’s military provocations of India will not be tolerated” and that the US is “committed to standing with our allies and partners like India in resolving the border standoff using diplomatic means”.

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