Tuesday, 17 September 2019

US tells India to avoid signing S-400 missile deal with Russia

WASHINGTON: The US has urged India to forgo its proposed deal to buy the S-400 missile defence system from Russia, warning that the deal could attract American sanctions.

New Delhi and Kremlin are expected to announce the deal this week during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two-day visit to India starting Thursday.

The US administration is required under a domestic law, Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, to impose sanctions on any country that has ‘significant transactions’ with Iran, North Korea or Russia. President Donald Trump has the power to waive these sanctions for specific countries and specific transactions, and US officials have repeatedly said in the recent past that India should not expect an automatic waiver if it goes ahead with the purchase from Russia.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hindu that this waiver might not be available to India and the S-400 deal falls in the category of sanctionable transactions. “We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that would trigger sanctions under CAATSA. The Administration has indicated that a focus area for the implementation of CAATSA Section 231 is new or qualitative upgrades in capability – including the S-400 air and missile defense system,” the official said.

The waiver provisions may not apply to India in this deal, the spokesperson indicated. “There are strict criteria for considering a waiver. The waiver is narrow, intended to wean countries off Russian equipment and allow for things such as spare parts for previously-purchased equipment,” said the official.

Meanwhile, Indian sources said India and the US have had extensive consultations on the deal and the decision does not come as a surprise to the Trump administration. “The US has been pressing India for scaling down its defence cooperation with Russia, while India has been clear about its intentions regarding the S-400 deal,” an official said.

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