India is likely to ask the United States for exemptions from sanctions to clear its way to ink a deal to procure S-400 air defence missile system from Russia.
New Delhi has been negotiating a contract with Russia’s state-owned Almaz-Antey Corporation to procure the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missiles. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Russian counterpart General Sergei Shoigu discussed the proposed deal when they met in Moscow on April 3 and discussed bilateral military cooperation.
Moscow’s envoy to New Delhi, Nikolay Kudashev, recently said that the negotiation on the contract might be concluded before Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosts Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi for the annual bilateral summit next October.
Sources in New Delhi told the DH that the government was also assessing if the deal would make India liable for actions by President Donald Trump’s administration in Washington DC under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The US Congress in July 2017 passed the CAATSA to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea. Trump signed it into law in August 2017 and its scope was further expanded in October 2017.
The Section 231 of the CAATSA mandated secondary sanctions to any nation entering into high-value deals to procure military hardware from Russia. The proposed India-Russia S-400 deal is estimated to be worth about $ 5.5 billion (Rs 39,000 crore).
New Delhi and Washington already had some discussion on the possibility of the US granting India a waiver from the CAATSA sanctions, thus clearing the hurdle for it to ink the contract for procuring the missile system from Russia.
Sources said that New Delhi had conveyed it to Washington that India could not abruptly scale down its reliance on military hardware from Russia, given the decades-old history of defence cooperation between the two countries. It was also made clear that India-US strategic partnership, particularly the bilateral defence cooperation, might be at risk if the Trump administration did not assure New Delhi of the exemption from CAATSA sanctions, added the sources.
Russia claims that its S-400 air defence missile system is effective against offensive actions by US F-35 stealth multi-role fighter jets. What has of late prompted New Delhi to seek early conclusion of the negotiation on the deal are reports that Russia has already started supplying the S-400s to China.
India and Russia in 2016 inked an inter-governmental agreement for procuring the S-400 air defence missile system. Both sides have since been negotiating the contract.