Washington - A key congressional committee passed a legislation of new financial assistance to Ukraine, by reducing a small portion of US aid given to Pakistan under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill.

The $10 million taken from the annual $1.5 billion to Pakistan would be used to carry out programming in the Ukrainian, Balkan, Russian, and Tatar language services of radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty and Voice of America, the house bill said.

The legislation - HR 4278, the Ukraine Support Act - was passed on Tuesday by an overwhelming bipartisan support by the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Introduced last week by the committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, it promotes Ukraine’s sovereignty and democratic institutions while sanctioning those who have sought to undermine its independence and stability.

The issue of moving funds from the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill - which is officially known as the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 - was raised during the mark up of the bill by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“My reading of the bill (HR 4278) is that we’re actually taking money from the Pakistani aid budget and putting it into the Ukraine aid budget instead,” Congressman Alan Grayson said.

“In terms of that portion of the budget, I think it’s broadcasting in Pakistan that we’re taking the funds and applying it here,” Congressman Ed Royce said. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for further action.

“Russia’s armed intervention in Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea have created an international crisis.

“The danger is far from over. If we wish to deter Putin from further aggression, the US and our allies must take immediate action to strengthen Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence and target Russian officials and others who are responsible for those actions,” Royce said.



Noting that Pakistan-India relations are “promising but fragile” and except another major terror attack in India a conflict between the two nuclear powers is remote, a top US commander said.

“Despite modest gains over the past few years, India-Pakistan relations are promising but fragile and the ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in 2013 are certainly a cause of concern,” Admiral Samuel J Locklear, commander of the US Pacific Command, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

“Barring another major terror attack in India, a conflict between these two nuclear powers is remote, but continued violence along the contentious border will erode the political space to improve relations,” Locklear said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Looking further beyond the immediate term, we should remain guardedly optimistic that India and China, the two largest Asian powers, value the economic benefits of cooperation and will strive, in New Delhi’s words, for peace and tranquility on the border as the foundation of a stable relationship,” he noted.

Observing that India continues its rise as a regional and emerging global power, Locklear said its increasing positive presence in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region as a security provider was an important factor in regional stability.

Last year, USPACOM participated in the US-India Strategic Dialogue and looks forward to India’s participation in this year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, he said.

“India has had impressive growth in defence trade with the US, purchasing C-17s, C-130Js and P-8s. As we look to mature our defence relationship, there is further opportunity for growth in defence sales, co-development and co-production under the aegis of the US India Defence Trade and Technology Initiative,” he said.

“These systems will expand India’s capabilities to provide for their own security and help their efforts to be a security provider for the region,” Locklear said.

The PACOM commander said periodic eruptions of religious, ethnic, political and separatist violence continue to plague some of America’s closest partners in the region, limiting its engagement efforts.

“India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines are all working against a confluence of criminal and extremist networks that enable transnational facilitation of people, material and money across the region to support various causes which threaten regional peace and prosperity,” he said.

“A sustained effort to build and enhance the capacity of our allies and partners is the cornerstone of our counterterrorism strategy in South and Southeast Asia,” he concluded.