Home Global Village How does the new US Defense Budget affect South Asia?

How does the new US Defense Budget affect South Asia?

Budget

News Analysis |

On Thursday, the US Congress passed the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018 that allotted $700 billion for defense purposes. The NDAA has allocated $700 million for reimbursements to Pakistan for its support to the US war efforts in Afghanistan. The release of $350million from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) is contingent upon Pakistan’s fight against 0the Haqqani Network.

The restricted amount will only be released if the Secretary of Defense testifies before the congressional defense committees that: “Pakistan continues to conduct military operations that are contributing to significantly disrupting the safe havens, fundraising and recruiting efforts, and freedom of movement of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan.”

The US considers India an important actor in South Asia and even the Indo-Pacific.

Besides, the Secretary of Defense has to certify that Pakistan is taking concrete steps to eliminate the dreaded splinter group. This would require Pakistan to coordinate with Afghanistan to restrict the movement of the network on the Afghanistan-Pak border. Also, Pakistan is required to arrest and/or eliminate Haqqani operatives.

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The Congress earlier included the name of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) in the certification of Pakistan’s cooperation. However, the name was removed in the revised version. The amendment in the provision and its eventual ratification shows the desire on part of Washington to singularly focus on Afghanistan, further amplifying the importance the US attaches to the Haqqani Network in its war efforts in Afghanistan. 

Removing the name of the LET is ostensibly an effort to keep Islamabad engaged, especially as and when the security profile in Afghanistan is fast-becoming an insurmountable challenge for the US. However, the mere delinking is unlikely to change the status of India in the US’s overall strategy for the region.

Despite officially maintaining neutrality in the simmering Kashmir dispute, the US has embraced India’s version of the valley as opposed to that of Pakistan. It is normal and expected given the saliency of India in the US regional strategy: India is the country that the US believes can counter China.

The NDAA has allocated $700 million for reimbursements to Pakistan for its support to the US war efforts in Afghanistan.

This assertion has been verified by the new Defense Budget. The NDAA has sought the advancement of military cooperation between India and the US. The act calls upon the Secretaries of State and Defense to come up with a definition that recognizes India as a “Major Defence Partner.” This was on the cards and right in-line with the US’s strategy and aims in the region.

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Senator Ted Cruz was instrumental in lengthening out amendments to strengthen Indo-US defense cooperation. Cruz pushed an amendment that urged the Department of Defense to reassess ties between the two countries and appoint a representative to oversee progress.

The Republican lawmaker also co-sponsored Senator Mark Warner’s amendment, which was assimilated, to develop a strategy of defense cooperation between the US and India. The US considers India an important actor in South Asia and even the Indo-Pacific.

With China’s burgeoning power profile in the region, the US is seen to be pandering India to mount a challenge to Beijing. “The designation (Major Defense Partner) promotes joint exercises, defense strategy and policy coordination, military exchanges, and port calls in support of defense cooperation between the United States and India,” NDAA read.

The Congress earlier included the name of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) in the certification of Pakistan’s cooperation. However, the name was removed in the revised version.

Expectedly, the NDAA calls upon both countries to enhance cooperation in Afghanistan for peace and stability. Watchers have warned against this approach as Delhi’s clout in Kabul is the sole reason why Pakistan intrudes in Afghanistan. While rejecting allegations of harboring terrorists, Pakistan has strongly opposed Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

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It is believed that with the US retreating from the Middle East, the thrust of its military spending will be directed towards South Asia. Beefing up defense cooperation with India will take the US and Pakistan towards a confrontation course.