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Ready to Be Flexible on Sanctions, But Tread Carefully on Russia Arms Deal: US Tells India

India has recently concluded price negotiations with Russia for a nearly Rs 40,000-crore deal to procure S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems for the Indian Air Force. The two countries are now trying to find a way to evade US sanctions.

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Updated:May 29, 2018, 8:43 AM IST
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Ready to Be Flexible on Sanctions, But Tread Carefully on Russia Arms Deal: US Tells India
Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range during the Victory Day parade in Moscow. (File Photo: Reuters),
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New Delhi: The United States has said it is working on adding more flexibility to its law that sanctions countries like India for buying Russian weapon systems, but sounded off New Delhi against going ahead with the Rs 40,000 crore deal for five S-400 defence missile systems with Moscow.

Congressman Mac Thornberry, who is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Pentagon, all military services and the Department of Defense agencies, said on Monday that there was "concern" in the US - both in the administration and in the Congress - that the deal would "complicate our ability to work on inter-operability".

India has recently concluded price negotiations with Russia for a nearly Rs 40,000-crore deal to procure S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems for the Indian Air Force. The two countries are now trying to find a way to evade US sanctions.

Recognising that the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSA), that was signed in August last year, "does not have much flexibility", the US Congressman said the National Defense Authorisation Bill 2019, which was passed in the House last week, adds more flexibility.

The CATSA mandates the US administration to punish entities engaging in significant transaction with the defence or intelligence sectors of Russia, North Korea and Iran. This impacts India, which depends on Russia for its military supplies.

Significantly, it could come in the way of India acquiring US-built Predator drones which could have been used in operations against terrorist launch-pads along the Line of Control with Pakistan.

"So, there is an understanding in the administration and the Congress that some additional flexibility in that law is needed. And it's not just India that's in that situation, there other nations in that," Thornberry told reporters.

Thornberry added that the new bill allows the US Secretary of Defence some discretion to allow any concession if a country is willing to reduce its dependence on Russian equipment.

"Now, some of the (Indian) government officials with whom we have met, believe that the language (of the Bill) could be improved. And so, I am certainly willing and anxious to hear suggestions not only from Indian governments but also other governments who may be affected on this by improving the language," the Congressman added.

"If there is concern that any country...it's not just India that is looking at acquiring it or any country that requires that system, it will complicate our ability to work on inter-operability together. So, that completely separate and apart from any sanctions, legislations. I hope that the (Indian) government will take its time and consider very carefully in acquiring that system (S-400) because of the difficulties it may present," he added.
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