Sanctioning India For S-400 Missile Defense System Purchase Will Further Push New Delhi Towards Russia – US Senators

US Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner have sent a joint message to President Joe Biden advising him against applying the provisions of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to India for its purchase of S-400 air defense system from Russia.

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In October 2018, Moscow and New Delhi signed a contract for the supply of five regimental sets of S-400 air defense systems worth more than $5 billion.

“As such, we strongly encourage you to grant a CAATSA waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system,” Republican Senator Cornyn and Democratic Senator Warner said in a letter sent to Biden.

The senators believe a waiver can be applied in this case because India has reduced the volume of imports of Russian military equipment over the past few years.

The sanctions could strengthen the position of those political forces in India that do not see the United States as a reliable partner, and, as a result, the restrictions could “thwart the Indian government’s efforts and long-term strategy to reduce Russian purchases and reliance on Russian defense hardware,” according to the letter.

File:S-400 Triumf (27102989027).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
S-400 Triumf – Wikimedia Commons

In addition, sanctions can negatively impact a strategic partnership between the United States and India, the senators say.

At the same time, Warner and Cornyn point out that they share the president’s concern about the “Indian integration of Russian equipment” and advise the administration to continue to discuss this issue constructively with New Delhi.

The senators suggest that the administration create a bilateral working group “to identify ways to promote the security of U.S. technology, and to chart a path forward to develop strategies to enhance U.S.-India military interoperability.”

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These measures, according to Cornyn and Warner, will strengthen India’s position as a major defense partner and can also help Washington to resist China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

India is expected to receive Russia’s S-400 air defense systems in line with the schedule, the first squadron will be supplied and inducted this year, Indian Air Force Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari confirmed earlier this month.

“We will get the S -400 on schedule. The first squadron will arrive and it will be inducted this year,” Chaudhari said at his first press conference after taking office.

New Delhi has been “very hopeful” to get a waiver from the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which punishes countries that strike arms deals with Russia, under the incoming Joe Biden administration.

Earlier, the spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava had commented on India’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems and said – India has always pursued an independent foreign policy that allows the country to enjoy close relations with both Russia and the United States, including in the sphere of military cooperation.

“India and the US have a comprehensive global strategic partnership. India has a special and privileged strategic partnership with Russia. India has always pursued an independent foreign policy. This also applies to our defense acquisitions and supplies which are guided by our national security interests,” Srivastava said. 

In October 2018, New Delhi struck a $5.4 billion contract with Moscow for deliveries of five mobile squadrons of S-400 air defense systems, in what has been dubbed as the largest deal in Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport’s history.

S-400 Triumph missile system is aimed at the highly effective elimination of strategic and tactical airplanes, ballistic missiles, hypersonic targets and other air attack weapons with different capabilities, including electronic.