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WASHINGTON : The US Congress is poised to pass this week the USD 731.6 billion defence authorisation conference report, which among other things calls out the Chinese aggression against India.

The bill, National Defense Authorisation Act for the year 2021, is slated to be passed by both the chambers of Congress this week before it is sent to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign it into law. The House of Representatives and Senate versions of the bill were reconciled by a bipartisan Congressional conference committee last week.

Trump has threatened to veto the bill as it lacks a repeal of legal protections for social media companies. However, the NDAA has been passed by Congress for the last 59 years.

This year’s bipartisan NDAA conference agreement focuses on priorities like implementing the National Defence Strategy to confront current and future security challenges from China, Russia, transnational terrorism, and beyond; and regaining a wide margin of military superiority.

As approved by the conference report, the powerful NDAA says that it is the sense of the Congress on the aggression of China along the border with India and its growing territorial claims. The Senate agreed to include the provisions of the bill that was passed by the House in its version of the bill.

The House bill contained provisions that would express the sense of Congress on cross-border violence between China and India and the growing territorial claims of Beijing.

Expressing "significant concern" over the continued military aggression by China along the border with India, the NDAA says that China "should work with" India toward de-escalating the situation along the Line of Actual Control through existing diplomatic mechanisms and refrain from attempting to settle disputes through coercion or force.

Attempts by China to advance baseless territorial claims, including those in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and with respect to Bhutan, are destabilising and inconsistent with international law, says the bill.

China and India have been locked in a military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh since May this year. Several rounds of talks between the two countries to resolve the standoff have not yielded any concrete outcome.

China is also engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.

Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. Both areas are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources and are also vital to global trade.

In a press release, the Senate Armed Services Committee said that NDAA reaffirms commitments to and support for various allies and partners, including Taiwan, the Baltic states, India, Vietnam and Japan.

The conferees commends the December 6, 2019, memorandum of understanding agreed to by the United States and Singapore to establish a fighter jet training detachment in Guam.

The agreement is a manifestation of the strong, enduring, and forward-looking partnership of the US and Singapore, and the permanent establishment of a fighter detachment in Guam will enhance the interoperability of the air forces of the US and Singapore and provide training opportunities needed to maximise their readiness.

The conferees direct the Secretary of Defence, not later one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, to submit to the congressional defence committees a report assessing the merit and feasibility of entering into similar agreements with other United States allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region, including Japan, Australia, and India.

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