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US defence bill: More security cooperation with India, conditional aid for Pakistan 

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Washington: US President Barack Obama has signed a $618 billion defence policy bill which when in place, will enhance security cooperation with India.

The National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), which was passed by both the House and the Senate with veto-proof majorities earlier this month, was signed by Obama on Friday in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he is currently vacationing.

The highlights of the bill released by Arizona Senator and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain said it “enhances security cooperation between the United States and India”, under the ‘Supporting Allies and Partners’ section.

According to the highlights, the NDAA will also “refocus security assistance to Pakistan on activities that directly support US national security interests and conditions a significant portion of funding on a certification from the Secretary of Defence that Pakistan is taking demonstrable steps against the Haqqani Network in Pakistani territory.”

The NDAA lays restrictions on transferring detainees out of the Guantanamo Bay facility, ensuring that Obama will not be able to fulfil his goal of closing it before he leaves office next month, Xinhua news agency reported.

It authorises a total of $618.7 billion in spending, including a troop pay raise of 2.1 per cent, though Obama has only requested for a 1.6 per cent pay raise.

It also calls for $3.2 billion more in base defence funding than Obama has requested, plus an additional $5.8 billion in White House-requested war dollars.

As for the size of the Army and Marine Corps, the new bill authorises 476,000 active duty soldiers (16,000 more than requested) and 185,000 Marines (3,000 more than requested).

After signing the bill on Friday, Obama said that it “authorises fiscal year 2017 appropriations principally for the Department of Defense and for Department of Energy national security programmes, provides vital benefits for military personnel and their families, and includes authorities to facilitate ongoing operations around the globe.”

However, “Congress again failed to enact meaningful reforms to divest unneeded force structure, reduce wasteful overhead and modernize military healthcare.”

“Instead, the Congress redirects funding needed to support the warfighter to fund additional end-strength that our military leaders have not requested at a time when our troops are engaged overseas supporting the fight against the Islamic State and against Al Qaeda,” he added.

On the campaign trail, US President-elect Donald Trump promised a massive military build-up, including boosting the Army to 540,000 active duty soldiers, increasing the Navy to 350 warships and adding 1,200 new Air Force fighter jets

IANS

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