Kremlin confirmed on Tuesday that Moscow and Delhi will sign S-400 missile deal when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits India later this week despite US sanctions against countries buying arms from Russia.
Putin will oversee the signing of a deal worth more than five billion US dollars, which Moscow has been negotiating with India for months, said Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov ahead of Putin's visit.
What is S-400 missile system?
According to Al Jazeera, the S-400 missile system is a state-of-the-art weapons platform with a maximum range of 400 kilometers, which is considered one of the best defense systems in existence.India had entered into an inter-governmental purchase agreement of the S-400 missile system with Russia as early as 2016.
For US, the purchase will violate the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Russia.
Recently, while responding to a question on the possibility of sanctions on India, Alice Wells, principal deputy assistant secretary for South and Central Asia in the US Department of State said that the current American sanctions are not intended to adversely impact countries like India.
Why India is eyeing Russia's S-400?
According to the officials, while Russian hardware may not be top of the line as compared to the US platforms in terms of technology, it is much cheaper initially and comes without additional conditionalities on the buyer.
This seems to be a good deal for India where more than 60 percent of the military equipment including fighters, tanks, missiles come from Russia.
Without the spares, the Indian armed forces' fighting capability will be significantly emasculated, local newspaper Hindustan Times reported.
It would be tough for India to stand the consequences if Russia decides to directly sell the system to Pakistan as it may skew the military balance in the region.
Pankaj Saran, Indian ambassador to Russia earlier said that the expansion of ties and partnership with Russia were an integral part of India's Indo-Pacific policy.
For Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has personally invested a lot in building close ties with Putin, deferring or shelving the deal will sour their relationship, the newspaper analyzed.
What concerned US most?
The deterioration of Russia-US ties and India's expanding acquisition of US defense technologies have made US more concerned about India's purchases of Russian weapons, noted Richard Weitz, director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute.
"Current US concerns revolve around India's purchase of the S-400s," he added.
In the eyes of some of the US officials, India's large military purchase "would shape India's strategic relations over the next generation and impact interoperability and the ability to continue to deepen its partnership with US and others."
As Weitz mentioned that US experts are concerned about Russia gaining access to the advanced US defense technologies that India is acquiring whose activities could be monitored by the Russians and that knowledge transferred to their own capabilities and combat approaches.
War of words
On Wednesday, the US ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison warned Russia that if it does not halt the development of a new cruise missile in violation of a treaty between the countries, the US will "take out" the missile.
The US insists, despite Russian denials, that Moscow has a new medium-range missile in its inventory – the Novator 9M729 capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
NATO fears that the Novator 9M729 system contravenes the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement of 1987.
The Cold War-era pact bans a whole category of weapons: Ground-launched medium-range missiles, capable of striking targets at distances between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310-3,100 miles).
Hutchison said that if the system "became capable of delivering" then the US "would then be looking at the capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries in Europe and hit America."
In response to the US statement, Moscow said the comments on possible destruction of Russian warheads are dangerous.
"It seems that people who make such statements do not realize the level of their responsibility and the danger of aggressive rhetoric," TASS news agency quoted Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.