India’s STA-1 status and implications for Pakistan

Adeela Ahmed

GLOBAL strategic milieu has been altered after terrible great powers war. In new world order, the alteration in alliances and collaboration among states is inevitable. States adopts measures to preserve their security and sovereignty. Unipolarity has been shifting towards multipolarity with the Rise of China while India is the alternative pole. The US had emerged India in its grand strategy and global geopolitics to secure its National Security interests. US is balancing China’s rise in the international system, and more particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. It is a clear strategic convergence between India and the United States.
The major big step took place when US-India signed Framework for Defence Relations in 2005. In 2016, the United States declared India a ‘Major Defence Partner’, which unlocks more access to defence trade and technology. Before the ‘two plus two’ dialogue going to held in early September 2018 between Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mattis with Indian counterparts, India got “Strategic Trade Authorisation-1” STA-1 status. After Next Step in Strategic Partnership(NSSP) and 123 Agreement, the STA-1 Tier, it is the succeeding big step of Indo-US defence Industrial Partnership and gives a boost to their robust and dynamic strategic partnership.
It was announced by US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross at the Indo-Pacific business forum on that “India would be moved into Tier 1 of the Department of Commerce’s Strategic Trade Authorisation license exception”. This regulatory change will enhance the bilateral defence trade relationship and result in a greater volume of US exports to India. The status has brought India as the powerful state with NATO allies, Japan and South Korea. China, Pakistan, and Russia are not part of 37th countries who have STA-1 status. Traditionally, the countries in the STA-1 list are members of the four export control regimes but US declared India in its federal notification. India is a member of three out of the four multilateral export regimes. India signed MTCR on June 27, 2016, the Wassenaar Arrangement on December 7, 2017, and the Australia Group on January 19, 2018. Trump administration made an exception for India, which is yet to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
The STA-1 status will make easy for Indian and US companies in defence trade while 50 percent of hi-tech items will not require license. Resultantly, India will develop their indigenous armed forces and defence production. Richard Rossow, Senior Advisor at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said, “STA-1 status opens India to the simpler importation of products with strategic importance including protection equipment like body armor and tear gas; materials related to nuclear power development; explosives detection and disposal. India seeks to develop an indigenous defence manufacturing industry, being able to import equipment used in creating specialty alloys, lighter frames, minimizing radar visibility, and other such factors will be critical”
Dhruva Jaishankar, Foreign Policy Fellow at Brookings India said that “the biggest constraint on India-US military-industrial cooperation was US export control policy, which was a combination of international regimes, US law, and US regulation. These have gradually been amended, and India has been increasingly accommodated.”
Major Defence partners USA and India have started a joint venture in the development of fifth generations warfare. 15 billion dollars of weapons trade done between US and India over the past decade. Trump administration had failed to play any victorious deal with any other country, so it is also enhancing its market. It will create jobs in the USA and will boost their economy. India can now acquire top tier weapons systems like AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter, armed drones and fighter jets like F-35 and Stealth bomber. India will get privileges and will become a hub of High-technology defence manufacturers.
Two democratic countries are likely to sign the bilateral agreement for Secure Military Communications on Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA). The pact is meant to provide a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India that would facilitate “interoperability” between their forces and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secured data links. Indian Armed Forces are currently dependent on less secure communication systems on platforms like C 130J and P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft.
Hence, such collaboration will certainly disrupt the equilibrium of South Asia. The move is the continuation of the USA policy of discrimination. It is a great concern for Pakistan strategic community that the US is easing export controls for high-tech product sales to India. It will also increase the risk of unauthorized or impermissible uses and safety and security of new imported technology. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that Pakistan calls on all states to carefully review their strategic export control policies that directly impinge on national security of Pakistan and undercut stated goals of preserving strategic stability in the region
US has close relations with India while put pressure on Pakistan regarding Afghnaistan Reconciliation process and along with that US cut off its security aid and military training programmes. Michael Kugelman, an expert of Pakistan affairs said that this move could squander what little goodwill and trust remains in the military-to-military relationship. Pakistan should fully utilize its diplomatic channels, policymakers, think tank experts and lobby groups not only to halt the arms race in the region but also build trustful relations with USA. Hopes are high, that new government must designate competent Pakistan Ambassador to the US who can defend national interests of Pakistan with effective foreign policy.
– The writer is Research Associate at Pakistan Institute of Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.

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