US Prez signs law to step up India defence ties, Nirmala Sitharaman hails move

New Delhi/Washington, Jan 2: In a major step to boost Indo-US bilateral relations and ensuring enhanced defence ties between two major democracies, US President Donald Trump on Monday signed legislation aimed at enhancing America’s leadership in the Indo-Pacific region and strengthening ties with India.

It was passed by the US Senate on December 4 and approved by the US Congress on December 12. It was one of the 13 Bills signed into law by President Trump on the last day of 2018, media reports said.

The Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) allocates a budget of $1.5 billion over a five-year period to enhance cooperation with America’s strategic regional allies in the region and states that the US “recognizes the vital role of the strategic partnership between the United States and India in promoting peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region”.

It also calls for strengthening and broadening of diplomatic, economic, and security ties between the two countries. 

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has hailed the Trump administration decision and tweeted saying: “…designation of India as a major defense partner…is unique to India”

She further wrote, this elevates defense trade, technology cooperation between the United States and India to a level commensurate with closest allies and partners of the United States”. 

According to the Act, it is the policy of the US to develop and commit to a long-term strategic vision and a comprehensive, multifaceted, and principled United States policy for the Indo-Pacific region that secures its vital national security interests and its allies and partners.

“The core tenets of the US-backed international system are being challenged, including by China’s illegal construction and militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea and coercive economic practices; North Korea’s acceleration of its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities; and the increased presence throughout Southeast Asia of the Islamic State and other international terrorist organisations that threaten the United States,” it says, according to reports.

The Act, which was introduced in April by Senators Cory Gardner and Ed Markey, who are chairman and member of Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, along with Senators Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin, endorses quadrilateral dialogue between the United States, Australia, India and Japan.

Such a quadrilateral dialogue, it said, is vital to addressing pressing security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region in order to promote a rules-based order; respect for international law; and a free and open Indo-Pacific, according to the provisions of the Act. 

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