Senate India Caucus to introduce bill to add India to NATO Plus bloc
Senator Mark Warner said he understands both the challenges and some of the opportunities as the two countries deal with a rising China.
A powerful American Senator has said he plans to introduce a bill to make India part of the NATO Plus grouping that would facilitate the transfer of topmost American technology and defence equipment without much bureaucratic hassle, amid growing challenges from a rising China.
NATO Plus, currently NATO Plus 5, is a security arrangement that brings together NATO and five aligned nations — Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and South Korea — to boost defence and intelligence ties.
"Senator (John) Cornyn and I, my co-chair at the (Senate) Indian 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," Senator Mark Warner told reporters at a news conference here on Tuesday.
"What we propose is adding India to the so-called NATO plus five 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.
Warner from the Democratic Party and 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 like South Korea, Australia, New Zealand. India ending into that category strengthens our incredibly important defence ties, particularly as we both grapple with challenges in particular around China," Warner said.
Chairperson of the powerful Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Warner said this is an extraordinarily important week for US-India relations as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Washington for talks with US President Joe Biden.
"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," Warner said.
"We are now at a critical juncture of this relationship where we need to move beyond the kind of common descriptions of this tie between the world's oldest democracy, the United States and the world's greatest and biggest democracy, India, and turn that into a full-fledged partnership," he said.
The Senator from Virginia said he expects expansion of some of the conversations that have been started around communications and technology.
"I am looking forward very much to conversations about how India and the United States can partner in the next generation wireless technology beyond 5G called Open Radio Access Network," he said.
"There's a real opportunity here for India to bring its enormous powers and expertise and software combined with American efforts and telecommunications to combine to where we move beyond traditional stacked hardware in telecommunications units," Warner said.
He said he understands both the challenges and some of the opportunities as the two countries deal with a rising China.
"I was glad to see Secretary (of State, Tony) Blinken have a good visit to China, but I think as well, India realises and I realise, and I think in the United States, that China is a potential economic challenge and in terms of aggressiveness in South Asia, a potential challenger on a variety of fronts," he said.
"That's why the United States and India must find a more common cause. The Quad is a great step forward in that area. India on defence alignment to the NATO plus five would be the next step," Warner said.