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US Indicates it Will go Easy on India-Russia S-400 Defence Deal Just Hours Before 2+2 Dialogue

US Defence Secretary James Mattis said he was certain that the S-400s will probably be brought up, adding it’ll be brought up by India, by the way.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:September 6, 2018, 8:24 AM IST
US Indicates it Will go Easy on India-Russia S-400 Defence Deal Just Hours Before 2+2 Dialogue
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents a bouquet to US Secretary of Defence James Mattis on his arrival at Palam Tech Area, to attend India's first ever ‘2+2 Dialogue’ between the two nations in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

New Delhi: India is aiming at getting a waiver from the US for the S-400 air defence system deal with Russia as the two sides sit across the table for the 2+2 Dialogue in New Delhi. And from what it appears, India will at least not be in for any sanctions from the US even if New Delhi goes ahead with the deal without a waiver.

While replying to a question regarding the S-400 deal on route India, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said, “I want you to remember that freedom means that at times, nations don't agree with each other. That doesn't mean we can't be partners. That doesn't mean we don't respect the sovereignty of those nations.”

Mattis said he was certain “the S-400s will probably be brought up,” adding “it’ll be brought up by India, by the way.” The question specifically mentioned if India risks sanctions by going ahead with the deal to which there was no direct reply but Mattis did say that “it’s right that I not speak here before I've even heard their point. So first, I want to listen to my counterpart.”

Meanwhile, sources have been saying that India is hopeful that US will keep in mind the strategic relations New Delhi has with other countries. This clearly suggests that India would ask America to look for a way of safeguarding Indian interests from the repercussions of the sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), when the Defence and Foreign ministers meet their US counterparts on Thursday for the inaugural 2+2 Dialogue in New Delhi.

India has already indicated that it intends on pushing through the approximately $6 billion deal with Russia. Earlier indications from the US had suggested the possibility of a waiver for India with the Mattis believed to have taken up the matter himself. However, last week Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said that a waiver cannot be guaranteed for future purchases giving rise to speculation that things may not be so easy for India.

The Indian side is also expecting more clarity on US sanctions on Iran and the November deadline to cut oil imports to zero. New Delhi while explaining how an oil-dependent economy like India will be unable to cut 24% of its total energy imports from Iran, will also be willing to hear what alternatives and suggestions US is able to offer which are cost-effective.

Ahead of the meeting between Sushma Swaraj, Nirmala Sitharaman, Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis, the foreign and defence ministers will also hold separate bilateral meetings. Swaraj is expected to raise the H1-B issue once again with the US administration. Sources have said India will also be keen on hearing Secretary Pompeo's impressions of the new regime in Pakistan under Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The 2+2 Dialogue was decided upon by the two sides when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone to meet US President Donald Trump in June, 2017. After being postponed twice, the last time due to “scheduling issues”, the four principals will finally meet today. This will be the highest level of engagement between the two sides this year. There is an invitation for the US President to be the chief guest at India's Republic Day celebrations next year, however, as White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said a few weeks ago no decision has been taken yet.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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