Implications for the region
On July 30, the United States Department of Commerce granted the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status to India, making it the world’s 37th and Asia’s only third country – after Japan and South Korea – and the only South Asian country to get this status. The biggest gain for India in this is the relaxation in norms related to controls, and also a coveted ‘Major Defence Partner’ status. The notification to this effect gains more significance, especially, because the Trump Administration has made an exception for India, which is yet to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Traditionally, the US has placed only those countries in the STA-1 list that are members of the four export control regimes: Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), Australia Group (AG) and the NSG.
Forging Indo-US strategic relations ahead, the American leadership has granted India ‘Strategic Trade Authorization-1’ (STA-1) status with an objective to ease export controls over high-technology product sales which has so far been applicable only to its NATO allies. This status paves the way for high-technology product sales to New Delhi. The Bureau of Industry and Security issued the notification to amend Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to formally recognise and implement India’s membership in the Wassenaar Arrangement (Wassenaar or WA). Further, the BIS removed India from Country Group A:6 and placed it in Country Group A:5.
According to the notification, the US and India continue their commitment to work together to strengthen the global non-proliferation and export control framework and further transform bilateral export control cooperation to recognise the full potential of the global strategic partnership between the two countries.
This commitment has been realised in the two countries’ mutually agreed upon steps to expand cooperation in civil space, defence and other high-technology sectors and the complementary steps of the US to realign India in its export control regulations, and support India’s membership in the four multilateral export control regimes (Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group).
Why This Status for India?
There are a number of reasons why the US has accorded STA-1 status to India. First, India and the United States share an interest in countering China’s expanding economic and military weightage. The US has emerged as a top arms supplier to India, selling weapons worth more than $15 billion over the past decade as New Delhi modernises its Soviet-era military arsenal.
Second, the US wants India to completely stop buying its defence equipment and weapons from Russia for obvious reasons. India has moved towards acquiring five advance S-400 Triumf Air Defence Missile Systems from Russia worth $5.5 billion despite the looming threat of US sanctions.
Once India inducts S-400 systems, the vital installations like nuclear power plants and nuclear arsenal will be well protected and taken care of. These long-range missile systems will tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly all along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border.
India and Russia have worked on a roadmap to get around the financial sanctions flowing out of the recent US law called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that seeks to deter countries from buying Russian weapons.
Read More: Understanding the US-India relationship
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