India likely to face US sanctions over Russian S-400 missile systems deal

Islamabad: The war hysteria of Narendra Modi regime is pushing India towards the US sanctions as it shows stubbornness over S-400 air defence systems deal with Russia, to counter China.

The United States has made it clear that India was unlikely to get a waiver on its planned acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems and any such move could make the country face sanctions similar to those imposed on Turkey for buying that equipment, Reuters reported.

According to the news agency, the Trump administration has been telling the Indians to drop the $5.5 billion deal for five missile systems and avoid a diplomatic crisis.

The US said New Delhi did not have a wide waiver from a 2017 US law aimed at deterring countries from buying Russian military hardware.

The policy may remain unchanged even after Biden administration takes charge next week that had rather promised an even tougher US approach towards Russia.

The Indian government viewed that they needed long-range surface-to-air missiles to counter the threat from China as both countries had been locked in a face-off on the disputed Himalayan border since April.

New Delhi has also affirmed its right to choose its defence supplies, potentially setting up an early point of friction with the new US administration.

“India and the U.S. have a comprehensive global strategic partnership. India has a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said about the proposed S-400 purchase.

The spokesperson said India always pursued an independent foreign policy. This also applies to their defence acquisitions and supplies which were guided by their national security interests.

The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey last month for its acquisition of the Russian air defence systems under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)

A US embassy spokesperson in Delhi said that the United States was aware of reports of India’s planned purchase of the S-400s.

“We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions under the CAATSA. CAATSA does not have any blanket or country-specific waiver provision.”

The embassy spokesperson said the US had not made any waiver determinations with respect to Indian transactions with Russia.

There was no immediate comment from Russian officials. Moscow has previously said that the sanctions imposed on Turkey were illegitimate and showed arrogance toward international law.

India made an initial payment of $800 million in 2019 toward the Russian deal and the first set of missile batteries are expected towards the end of this year.

The US officials believe there was still time for Delhi to reconsider, and that the punitive measures would only kick in if the deal with the Russians was “consummated.”

Washington has told New Delhi that if India acquires the S-400 it would affect how its systems interact with US military equipment that India now has and would jeopardise future arms transfers such as high-end fighter planes and armed drones, according to the people aware of the matter.

“There is a narrow chance India can avoid sanctions, presuming the S-400 purchase is completed. At the moment, it’s a good bet that sanctions will be applied against India,” Richard Rossow, a specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said.

But the outcome could depend on how India-U.S. defence cooperation progresses, he said, adding that India had been working with Washington on security in Asia more than ever before and this could be a mitigating factor.