House passes Ro Khanna’s sanctions waiver for India

Indian American lawmaker’s historic amendment to strengthen US-India defense partnership

In the most significant piece of legislation for US-India relations since the US-India nuclear deal, US House has passed a waiver of sanctions that may be triggered by India’s acquisition of Russian weapons.

Authored by Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna, the historic amendment will affirm the US partnership with India and urge the Biden administration to use their authority to provide India with a Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) waiver.

Under the CAATSA, the US imposes sanctions on countries with “significant transactions with with Iran, North Korea or Russia.”

Read: Ro Khanna seeks sanctions waiver, deeper India-US defense ties (July 7, 2022)

The Khanna amendment was passed by voice vote Thursday as part of an en bloc amendment during floor consideration of the National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA).

“The United States must stand with India in the face of escalating aggression from China,” said Khanna (D-CA), Congressional India Caucus Vice Chair and Member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“As Vice Chair of the India Caucus, I have been working to strengthen the partnership between our countries and ensure that India can defend itself along the Indian Chinese border,” said Rep. Khanna. “This amendment is of the utmost importance, and I am proud to see it pass the House on a bipartisan basis.”

Noting that India relies on Russian-built weapons for its national defense, Khanna’s amendment calls upon the US to take additional steps to encourage India to accelerate its transition off Russian-built weapons and defense systems while strongly supporting India’s immediate defense needs.

While India faces immediate needs to maintain its heavily Russian-built weapons systems, a waiver to sanctions under CAATSA during this transition period is in the best interests of the US and the US-India defense partnership to deter aggressors in light of Russia and China’s close partnership, it says.

The Khanna amendment asserts a strong US-India defense partnership, rooted in shared democratic values, is critical in order to advance US interests in the Indo-Pacific region.

This partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies is critical and must continue to be strengthened in response to increasing threats in the Indo-Pacific regions, sending an unequivocal signal that sovereignty and international law must be respected, it says.

The amendment describes the US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) as a welcome and essential step to developing closer partnerships between governments, academia, and industry in the United States and India to address the latest advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, aerospace, and semiconductor manufacturing.

Read: Ro Khanna asks India to condemn Putin, stop buying Russian oil (March 28, 2022)

“Such collaborations between engineers and computer scientists are vital to help ensure that the United States and India, as well as other democracies around the world, foster innovation and facilitate technological advances which continue to far outpace Russian and Chinese technology,” kit says.

Here is the full text of the amendment:

SEC. 1336. UNITED STATES-INDIA DEFENSE PARTNERSHIP.

a.     STRONG UNITED STATES-INDIA DEFENSE PARTNERSHIP.—It is the sense of Congress that—

1.     a strong United States-India defense partnership, rooted in shared democratic values, is critical in order to advance United States interests in the Indo-Pacific region; and

2.     this partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies is critical and must continue to be strengthened in response to increasing threats in the Indo-Pacific regions, sending an unequivocal signal that sovereignty and international law must be respected.

b.     UNITED STATES-INDIA INITIATIVE ON CRITICAL AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES (ICET).—The Congress finds that the United States-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) is a welcome and essential step to developing closer partnerships between governments, academia, and industry in the United States and India to address the latest advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, aerospace, and semiconductor manufacturing. Such collaborations between engineers and computer scientists are vital to help ensure that the United States and India, as well as other democracies around the world, foster innovation and facilitate technological advances which continue to far outpace Russian and Chinese technology.

c.      BORDER THREATS FROM CHINA AND RELIANCE ON RUSSIAN-BUILT WEAPONS.—Congress recognizes that—

1.     India faces immediate and serious regional border threats from China, with continued military aggression by the Government of China along the India-China border,

2.     India relies on Russian-built weapons for its national defense, and

3.     the United States should take additional steps to encourage India to accelerate India’s transition off Russian-built weapons and defense systems while strongly supporting India’s immediate defense needs.

Read: US lawmakers approve CAATSA waiver for India (July 15, 2022)

d.     WAIVER OF CAATSA SANCTIONS IN BEST INTERESTS OF UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED STATES-INDIA DEFENSE PARTNERSHIP.—While India faces immediate needs to maintain its heavily Russian-built weapons systems, a waiver to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act during this transition period is in the best interests of the United States and the United States-India defense partnership to deter aggressors in light of Russia and China’s close partnership.

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