The United States Senate on Tuesday passed a $716 billion (Rs 48 lakh crore) defence bill which, among other things, seeks to strengthen Washington’s defence partnership with New Delhi. The US designated India as a “Major Defence Partner” in 2016, which permits India to buy advanced and sensitive technologies from Washington.

The US Senate passed the National Defence Authorisation Act, 2019, with an overwhelming majority of 85-10. “This legislation continues our reform agenda and helps better position the Department of Defense and the joint force to implement the National Defense Strategy by continuing to restore readiness, rebuild capacity and modernise capabilities,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairperson John McCain said.

The bill “expresses the sense of the Senate that the US should strengthen and enhance its major defence partnership with India”. It also proposes sanctions for Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, if the country buys the S-400 air defence system from Russia. This is significant as New Delhi and Moscow concluded negotiations in May for the air defence system, despite Washington’s opposition.

The bill also reimposes penalties on Chinese telecom giant ZTE, which the Donald Trump administration had lifted. The company’s operations had taken a hit earlier this year after Washington banned US firms from selling to ZTE, due to its alleged dealings with Iran and North Korea, CNBC reported.

The reintroduction of penalties is likely to lead to a clash between hardliners in the Republican Party and the Trump administration, The Washington Post reported.

However, the bill still has a long way to go to become a legislation. The US House of Representatives has already passed a different version of the bill. The proposed legislation will now be discussed in a conference of the Senate and House. If a single version is then agreed on, the Senate and the House will again vote separately on the bill, before it is passed to President Donald Trump for his assent.