Sunday, 11 December 2016

Text of NDAA 2017 designating India a "major defence partner" of US... and my summarisation

Section 1292 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017: “Enhancing Defense and Security Cooperation with India”

The Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State should jointly act to:

1.              Recognise India as a major defense partner of the US.

2.              Designate an official to (a) Pursue the “Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship”; and (b) Help resolve issues that impede defence cooperation.

3.              Facilitate the transfer of advanced technology to India, to support combined military planning for missiles like HADR, counter-piracy, freedom of navigation, MDA and to promote weapons interoperability.

4.              Strengthen the DTTI and the Pentagon’s “India Rapid Reaction Cell”.

5.              Collaborate with Govt of India to develop “mutually agreeable” mechanisms for verifying security and end use monitoring.

6.              Support alignment of India’s export control and procurement regimes with those of US and multilateral control regimes.

7.              Enhance defence and security cooperation with India to advance US interests in South Asia and the Indo-Asia-Pacific regions.

Within 180 days of this Act, and annually thereafter, Secretaries for Defence and State should report to Congress on progress on the actions above.

Bilateral Coordination: Secretary of Defence should facilitate exchanges between senior defence and civil officials of US and India

(a) To enhance military engagement in threat analysis, military doctrine, force planning, mutual security interests, logistical support, intelligence, tactics, techniques and procedures, HADR;

(b) Include exchanges of senior military officers;

(c) Enhance military cooperation, including maritime security, counter-piracy, counter-terror cooperation and domain awareness in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region;

(d) Accelerate combined military planning for (HADR, counter-piracy, freedom of navigation, MDA and to promote weapons interoperability) or (threat analysis, military doctrine, force planning, mutual security interests, logistical support, intelligence, tactics, techniques and procedures, HADR) or other missions in the national security interests of both countries; and

(e) Solicit efforts by India that would allow US to treat India as a “major defence partner”.

Assessment Required:

(a)   Secretaries for Defence and State shall, on an ongoing basis, assess India’s capabilities to support and carry out military operations of mutual interest to the US and India;

(b)   Including an assessment of defence export control regulations and policies that need modification in recognition of India’s capabilities and status as a major defence partner.

(c)   Use of Assessment: the President shall ensure that the assessment above is used, consistent with US conventional arms transfer policy, to inform US reviews of Indian requests for defence articles, services or related technology under the Arms Export Control Act.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

US Congress writes US-India defence ties into law

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 10th Dec 16

On Thursday, in Washington DC, a law relating to the US-India defence partnership cleared its final legislative hurdle. When President Barack Obama signs it next week, his presidential successors and their administrations will be legally bound to treat India as a “major defence partner”.

Titled, “Enhancing Defense and Security Cooperation with India”, the India-related section is embedded as an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 (NDAA), an annual bill that allocates funding to the US military.

Last night, the US Congress’ upper house, the Senate, voted 92-7 to pass NDAA 2017. Last week the lower house, the House of Representatives, had passed the bill with a majority of 375-34. With such overwhelming Congressional support, the US president is not empowered to veto the bill.

The legislation is based on Washington’s belief that India is strategically vital to America in Asia’s security architecture. It sets the stage for easier Indian access to US high technology.

“The designation as a ‘Major Defense Partner’ is a status unique to India and institutionalizes the progress made to facilitate defense trade and technology sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future”, said a joint statement from US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar after they met in New Delhi on Thursday.

Senator Mark Warner, who drafted the India amendment that the Senate passed, declared today: “I welcome the continued advancement of our bilateral defense relationship with India, as evidenced by the establishment of the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), the signing of the Defence Framework Agreement, the completion of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement and the designation of India as a major defence partner”.

Congressman George Holding, who steered the India amendment through the House of Representatives, pointed out: “India plays a critical role as a strategic partner to the US and as a pillar of stability in South Asia. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to solidify the economic and defence relationship between our countries.”

For American defence corporations, which have already benefited from $15 billion worth of arms sales to India, the bill provides opportunities for greater volumes of business. Says Ben Schwartz of the US-India Business Council, which represents numerous top-tier US companies doing defence business with India: “We want the Indian military to be capable of managing the growing security threats in the Indian Ocean region. And we want many of those capabilities to come from American industry and US-India industrial partnerships.”

The India amendment, which forms Section 1292 of the NDAA, requires the US secretaries of defense and state to designate an official with the specific task of clearing roadblocks to greater cooperation. In the Obama administration, this function was earlier performed by Ashton Carter himself, as co-chairman of the DTTI, and is currently being performed by Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L).

An early indication of how seriously President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration will pursue defence cooperation with India would be available from how expeditiously Kendall’s replacement is appointed, and how senior the official will be, observes an Indian defence ministry official.

US officials predict that India will be important for Trump’s administration, but not a problem to be handled on urgent priority, at least initially. With relatively little mind space for India, the relationship would initially require to be nudged along by the defence industry.

Even so, the administration will be bound by the “reporting” clause in the India amendment, which requires an official to report within six months to Congress on progress in the US-India defence relationship.

It also remains to be seen how New Delhi reacts to the “operational” clauses of the India amendment, which requires the US administration to coordinate with their Indian counterparts on “engagement between the militaries of the two countries for threat analysis, military doctrine, force planning, mutual security interests, logistical support, intelligence, tactics, techniques and procedures, humanitarian aid and disaster relief.”

Indian governments, including the current one, have been careful to dispel any impression that New Delhi is in a military alliance with Washington.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Silence on next army chief raises speculation about tri-service commander

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Dec 16

If the government had followed tradition, Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi, currently commanding the eastern army from Fort William in Kolkata, would have been named two months ago to succeed the present army chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who is scheduled to retire on December 31. Bakshi is the senior-most amongst qualified generals; and the government has traditionally named its incoming army, navy and air force three months ahead of time, to facilitate a smooth hand-over.

But with just 23 days to go for Suhag’s retirement, and no successor named, the New Delhi grapevine is abuzz with speculation that the government is finalizing the appointment of a tri-service chief, along with the next army chief. The four-star or five-star tri-service commander would be over and above existing army, navy and air force chiefs of four-star rank --- general, admiral and air chief marshal respectively.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar have both earlier pledged to create a tri-service chief. There would be both political and functional benefit from such an appointment, with the Bharatiya Janata Party reinforcing its claim to being strong on national security.

However, the degree to which creating a tri-service chief would transform the military’s functioning would depend on the structures around the appointment. There are three ways this could be done.

The least disruptive measure, and therefore the least transformative, would be creating a four-star “permanent chairman chiefs of staff” (PCCOS), as proposed in 2013 by the Naresh Chandra Committee. This would leave the operational command of field forces with the army, navy and air force chiefs, as at present, while the tri-service chief would handle strategic and perspective planning, long-term equipment and manpower structuring; while also rendering military advice to the political leadership. In effect, the new PCCOS would only be an upgraded version of the three-star officer who currently heads the Integrated Defence Staff --- set up in 2001 as a gesture to jointmanship. While the PCCOS is spoken of as “the first amongst equals”, the untrammelled power of the three service chiefs over their respective fiefdoms would render the PCCOS a nominal tri-service chief.

The government’s second option is to appoint a five-star rank commander termed the “chief of defence staff” (CDS), who would be the direct boss of all three service chiefs and the single point military advisor to the political leadership. In 2001, a Group of Ministers (GoM) had recommended a five-star CDS, echoing the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee, which had criticised the lack of tri-service coordination during the 1999 Kargil conflict. The CDS appointment could be rotated between the army, navy and air force; or handpicked by the political leadership from any of the three services.

Smaller services like the air force and the navy worry that the army, being the largest service, would predominate in CDS appointments, which in turn might bring it disproportionate funding and equipment allocations. The IAF has publicly opposed having a five-star CDS exercising control over the air force chief. The bureaucracy, especially the Indian Administrative Service, also opposes a five-state CDS, apprehending that he would be senior to the top bureaucrat --- the cabinet secretary.

The third option, which would be the most transformative, is a root-and-branch restructuring of the entire military command structure, to impose tri-service jointmanship not just at the apex of the hierarchy, but also on the combat force --- the so-called theatre commands. The US military enforced this in 1986 through the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which placed American combat forces from all four services (including the Marine Corps) under geographic theatre commanders, e.g. Pacific Command, Central Command, etc. A similar exercise would merge our 17 single-service commands, into five-six tri-service commands, organised geographically, each under a commander with full authority over all the army, navy and air force assets in his theatre. Every theatre commander would report to the defence minister, including for combat operations in his theatre.

Meanwhile, the five-star CDS, without the burden of operational command responsibility, would be an advisor to the political leadership on military affairs. Meanwhile, the army, navy and air force chiefs, also relieved of operational command, would focus on manpower, training and equipment of their respective services, ensuring that the soldiers, sailors and airmen they send into the field are suitably selected, kitted and trained for combat.

This is the trend globally. In February, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) transformed from a single-service to a tri-service structure, with its seven “military regions” reorganised into five tri-service theatre commands. Each of these so-called “battle zones” incorporates units from the PLA Navy and PLA Air Force.

It remains unclear who would be the first tri-service commander. In the options being spoken of, the first involves elevating Suhag to that job, while promoting Bakshi to army chief. The second option is appointing Bakshi to one of the jobs, while promoting the army’s current vice-chief, Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, to the other.

Last December, addressing the military’s top commanders, the prime minister declared: “Jointness at the top is a need that is long overdue. We also need reforms in senior defence management… This is an area of priority for me.” Now, the government has just three weeks to decide whether to deliver.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Trumping up an India policy

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Dec 16

This week, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter arrives in Delhi on what would probably be his farewell visit to India. President-elect Donald Trump has named Carter’s successor --- retired Marine Corps general, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, so named for his hard-driving ways and macho comments (he instructed his troops: “Be professional, be polite, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet”). The well-respected Mattis seems likely to be confirmed by Congress. Social media wags quip that it is worrying that Mr Trump’s best choice so far is nicknamed “Mad Dog”. Even so, General Mattis might well turn out popular in India. While he would never match Mr Carter’s single-mindedness in driving the US-India defence relationship, the general has personally experienced Pakistan’s perfidy in Afghanistan, when he commanded the first US troops to be deployed there after the Taliban was driven from power in 2001. They say there are no Pakistan fans amongst American soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

With this changeover imminent, it is worth reviewing where US-India defence relations stand after Presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama. Over the last sixteen years, India and America have tussled on several fronts --- trade and climate change amongst them --- but defence ties have marched forward inexorably. US arms sales are up to $15 billion and are poised to rise. Washington has liberalised technology transfer to India, with most requests now granted without question. There are the first green shoots of joint development projects. The two militaries train together and, despite New Delhi’s public repudiation of shared operational planning, sophisticated US-India exercises like the annual Malabar series have created a workable capability to operate jointly in any crisis in the Indian Ocean or South China Sea. Discussions between the two countries in a “joint working group” on aircraft carrier technology are inevitably aligning India’s technology choices for its next indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vishal, with American technologies and systems now on offer. The aircraft carrier, once a powerful symbol of Washington’s coercion of India after the USS Enterprise sailed into the Bay of Bengal on a gunboat diplomacy mission in support of Pakistan at the height of the 1971 war; is now the symbol of US-India cooperation.

Moreover, with Japan now formally included in Malabar, India is engaged with America’s regional alliance partners. New Delhi’s own engagement of smaller littoral states, such as its line of credit to Vietnam for defence sales, signals a readiness to take up its share of the burden of regional security. Perhaps most importantly, Washington’s wooing of New Delhi will not be just a Bush-Obama fad: when the US Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 this week, an amendment relating to India, which is tucked away in the Bill, will bind every US administration to deal preferentially with India as a “major defence partner”.

Yet, strong winds of change are possible, especially if President Trump acts according to various statements (many of them contradictory) that he has made during his election campaign. He has effectively called his allies freeloaders, including Japan and South Korea, and vowed to make them pay for the security that America provides. He has called the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) “obsolete”. This could provide an impetus for some allies to go openly nuclear; but then Mr Trump has expressed a preference for a larger number of nuclear states. He has criticised Saudi Arabia and Iran, both deadly rivals of each other, and promised to “tear up” Mr Obama’s nuclear settlement with Teheran. He has declared he can end the confrontation with Russia and be friends with President Vladimir Putin. If Beijing was pleased by Mr Trump’s rough treatment of his Asia-Pacific allies, they would be watching to see whether he will deliver on his pledge to declare China a currency manipulator on Day-1 of his administration, and to level punitive duties on Chinese imports. He has already broken decades of American protocol with a phone call to Taiwan’s president. Mr Trump has called Pakistan “probably the most dangerous” country in the world, which India needs to “check”. However, New Delhi is watching with bated breath for any follow-up to Mr Trump’s conjecture that his “deal-making skills” should be applied to the Kashmir issue. He has already telephoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and, according to Islamabad’s published, but unverified, version of the conversation, called Mr Sharif “terrific”, Pakistan a “fantastic” country full of “one of the most intelligent people”, and declared that “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems”.

Senior US government officials argue, almost wishfully, that it would be unwise to take literally everything that the president-elect said during the election campaign and that governing is very different from campaigning. They could be partially correct. Mr Trump’s fundamental campaign promise --- to make America great again --- syncs, as it has since World War II, with the his public’s expectation that America assumes leadership on global issues. His promise to build up the US Navy does not suggest any retrenchment from the Asia-Pacific. Officials accept there would be some effects --- such as the renegotiation of basing agreements with allies and, perhaps, a name change for the “rebalance to the Asia-Pacific” --- but no tectonic geopolitical changes. “It will be a learning curve for the new administration and we have our work cut out so that the incoming leadership understands the full scope of facts and the trade-offs involved in making these decisions”, says a senior Washington official.

For now, New Delhi can only watch to see what policies, administration, and which senior officials, emerge from the political churn in America. At the fundamental level of national interest, Mr Trump confronts the same security dynamics and dilemmas that drove President Obama’s Asia-Pacific policy. Chinese power has only grown since then and become more assertive, accentuating the logic behind those choices. Yet, the new administration’s choice of officials, down to the midlevel, will be a key factor in Washington’s engagement with New Delhi. There is unlikely to be another Ashton Carter, heavily invested in the India relationship and aware of its nuances; nor is Mr Trump likely to drive India policy from the White House as personally as his predecessor has done. New Delhi must hope that the “number twos”, and the mid-level officials who effectively shape and implement policy, are India-aware, India-friendly and India-focused --- in the state and defence departments, and the National Security Council. Given Washington’s vitiated political atmosphere, it will probably be some months before confirmed officials are in place.

Friday, 2 December 2016

US Congress to enshrine US-India defence ties in US law

Congress to clear bill next week, Obama will sign into law thereafter

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 3rd Dec 16

With President Barack Obama and the India-friendly Defence Secretary Ashton Carter about to demit office, their unswervingly pro-India defence policy is about to be enshrined into US legislation.

This week, top US lawmakers from both houses of Congress --- the Senate and the House of Representatives --- jointly agreed to an amendment in a major budget bill that will formalize and consolidate India’s status as a major US partner.

The amendment is entitled “Enhancing Defense and Security Cooperation with India” (hereafter “India amendment”). It is a part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 (NDAA), which allocates funding each year to the US military. Like several small, but important, US bills, the India amendment is piggybacking on the NDAA (which must be passed by Congress) to avoid the fate of numerous small bills that are lost forever in Washington’s legislative hubbub.

The classic example of this piggybacking technique was the passage of the innocuously titled “Naval Vessel Transfer Act” in 2008, which has legislatively committed the US to ensuring Israel enjoys a “qualitative military edge” over every potential adversary.

Now, in similar fashion, the US Congress is binding future American presidents, whatever their alliances or foreign policies, to nurturing US-India defence ties.

The India amendment directs the US Department of Defense (the Pentagon) and Department of State to sustain and prioritize defense cooperation with India through a specified series of policies and actions.

These include: recognizing India’s status as “a major defense partner of the United States”, designating an official to ensure the success of the “Framework for the United States-India Defense Relationship”, to “approve and facilitate the transfer of advanced technology”, and the “strengthen the effectiveness of the US-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) and the durability of the [Pentagon’s] “India Rapid Reaction Cell”.

All these mechanisms were instituted by the Obama administration to galvanize US-India defence relations, but there was no guarantee that subsequent US governments would follow them. The passage of the India amendment makes it obligatory for all US administrations to do so.

According to officials closely involved with negotiating the India amendment, the NDAA is likely to pass the House of Representatives and the Senate next week and be signed into law by President Obama soon thereafter.

The passage of this amendment, which had been cleared by the House of Representatives in May, but scuttled --- only temporarily, it now emerges --- by the Senate in June, underlines the bipartisan Congressional consensus that the US-India relationship is, in the words of their president, “the defining partnership of the 21st century”.

"For the last decade, a consensus has been growing among America’s soldiers, spies, and diplomats that a stronger and more capable Indian military is in America’s national security interest. This legislation demonstrates that this realization has spread to America’s elected representatives as well,” said Ben Schwartz, the US-India Business Council’s defense and aerospace head, who was formerly India head in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

There has been criticism that the India amendment makes no changes to the US Arms Export Control Act, which places India in the category of countries to which arms sales require a 30-day notification to the US Congress; rather than the more favoured countries that require only a 15 day notification.

In fact, that would be a problem only for countries that have such a high volume of arms purchases from the US that they cannot wait an extra 15 days. India, in contrast, as seen in all recent purchases of US weaponry, actually takes several years to conclude a contract after the “congressional notification”.

US officials also point out that this distinction has absolutely no affect on the level of technology transfer.

The passage of the India amendment has been bumpy, because of infighting over unconnected issues within the bitterly divided US Congress. US legislative procedure required both houses to pass similar versions of the India amendment, after which a joint conference reconciles the wording before it is voted on.

This process encountered a hiccup in summer. After the House of Representatives passed the India amendment in May, entitled “US India Defense Technology and Partnership Act”, the Senate failed to pass the companion bill, entitled “Advancing U.S.-India Defense Cooperation Act”. Now, however, a joint House-Senate “conference”, convened to hammer out the final form of the NDAA, mutually agreed to include the India amendment, which forms Section 1292 of the NDAA.

The US Congress will now be closely monitoring the relationship. The India amendment mandates: “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act (the NDAA), and annually thereafter, the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State shall jointly submit to [Congress] a report on how the United States is supporting its defence relations with India in relations to the actions described…”

Enhancing US-India defence: Features of India amendment

India recognized as “major defence partner of the United States”

Designated US defence official to ensure success of US-India Framework Agreement on Defence.

Support combined US-India military planning for non-combat missions

Promote US-India weapons interoperability

Enhance cooperation with India “to advance United States interests in the South Asia and greater Indo-Asia-Pacific regions”

Strengthen “Defence Trade and Technology Initiative” (DTTI)

Develop “mutually agreeable mechanisms” to verify security of US-supplied defence equipment and technology

Annual report to Congress on how the US government is supporting defence ties