India Seals S-400 Missile Deal With Russia, US Guarded in Response After Sanctions Threat
The US embassy said its intent to slap sanctions against Russia was not aimed at imposing damage to the military capabilities of its “allies or partners”
PM Narendra Modi shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: India agreed a deal with Russia to buy the formidable S-400 surface to air missile systems on Friday as the government disregarded United States warnings that such a purchase could trigger sanctions.
Although there was no public signing, the deal was sealed during Russian President Vladimir Putin's ongoing visit to New Delhi for an annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The contract worth more than USD 5 billion gives the Army ability to shoot down aircraft and missiles at unprecedented ranges and would help guard the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border.
The S-400 can engage up to 36 targets at a time and simultaneously launch 72 missiles. The delivery of the missile systems will start 24 months from the signing of the contract.
The decision to purchase the S-400, however, flies in the face of the United States imposing sanctions on countries buying Russian military hardware, as happened with China last month.
The United States has said countries trading with Russia's defence and intelligence sectors would face automatic sanctions under a sweeping legislation called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The air defence system will give India the ability to shoot down aircraft and missiles at unprecedented ranges. (Photo: Reuters)
But the US was guarded in its response on whether it would follow through with its threat after India concluded the deal.
The US embassy said its intent to slap sanctions was not aimed at imposing damage to the military capabilities of its “allies or partners”, but only to inflict costs on Russia for its “malign behaviour”.
The US did not specify whether it would give India a presidential waiver for the deal, making it clear that it would be considered on a transaction-by-transaction basis, adding it cannot prejudge any sanctions decisions.
Other agreements - announced following a meeting between Putin and Modi that began with a hug - were in railways, fertilisers and space, with Russia set to train astronauts for India's first crewed space mission in 2022.
"We welcome you as a leader of a country which has second-to-none relations with us," PM Modi told a joint news conference. "Today we have taken decisions that will make our long term relations even stronger."
Russia "reiterated its unwavering support to India for permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council" and for India joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group of countries controlling access to nuclear technology, a joint statement said.
The talks also covered Russia potentially building a new nuclear power plant in India, and also India paying Russia $2 billion for frigates and $1 billion for helicopters, although these last two were absent from the communique.
This was the third meeting between PM Modi and Putin this year after the informal meeting in the Russian resort city of Sochi in May and a bilateral on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in South Africa.
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