US Eyes Increased Arms Sales To India Amid Crippling Sanctions On Russia; US Diplomat Says Delhi Not In Russian Camp

Russia has been slapped with a barrage of sanctions by the US and its allies in the wake of its military assault on Ukraine. 

The economic sanctions are poised to hurt Moscow’s defense exports as most of the international trade transactions happen in US dollars, thus restricting the ability of countries to buy the Russian defense equipment.

This does not bode well for India which relies on Russian imports for about 65 percent of its defense needs, according to a report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

New Delhi and Moscow have some major defense deals in the pipeline which include, the delivery of four Talwar class warships – two of which are being made in Russia and two in India; the supply of 20,000 AK-203 rifles with an additional 6 lakh to be made in India; procurement of 460 T-90 tanks. Also, India is in talks for a lease of ‘Akula’ class N-submarine from Russia.

Mockups of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. (Wikimedia Commons)

Besides, India is jointly involved with Russia in the manufacture and sale of BrahMos missiles that are to be exported to the Philippines under a $375 billion deal, so the sanctions aimed at Russia can hurt India’s own exports.

“My view is that it’s going to be very hard for anyone to buy major weapon systems from Moscow in the coming months and years, given sweeping financial sanctions that the administration, with the support of Congress, has leveled…I would guess that India is one of those countries worried about that,” said Donald Lu, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, in his briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 2.

Lu indicated that these sanctions offer the US and other countries that export advanced military technology an opportunity “to go after new markets to make sure we’re not only selling the high end, we’re selling the middle and low end as well”.

In what could seem an overture to India, Lu also highlighted India’s market potential for US defense exports.

He said that India is the world’s second-largest importer of defense technology and in the space of last 22 years, US defense sales to the country have reached up to $20 billion with more purchases, such as that of six additional P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft, being considered by India.
Boeing P-8I of the Indian Navy

“Since 2011, India has reduced its arms imports from Russia by 53 percent and increased its defense purchases from the United States and other partners, as well as increasing its own domestic production capability,” Lu added.

India ‘Not In Russia’s Camp’ — US Diplomat

Meanwhile, Patricia Lacina, Charge D’Affaires, US Embassy in India, said Washington does not believe New Delhi is “in Russia’s camp”.

“I would say that we understand that the relationship that India has with Russia is very different from the relationship that the US has with Russia. And we have been asking not just India, but all other countries that have a relationship with Russia, to use that leverage for constructive purposes and try and resolve the conflict,” Lacina told NDTV.

Her comment assumes significance as it comes in the wake of an Axios report claiming that the “State Department had recalled a cable to US diplomats that instructed them to inform counterparts from India and the United Arab Emirates their position of neutrality on Ukraine put them in Russia’s camp”.

s-400 Missile
File Image: S-400 Missile

India has abstained thrice from voting on UN resolution deploring the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a move that seems to have disappointed the US.  

The Ukraine crisis has put India in a difficult position as it tries to retain its historic and strategic partnership with Russia while nurturing its growing security ties with the US.

Also, India’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles has come under scrutiny in the US, as similar purchases by other countries such as Turkey have been met with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

At the same time, the US also remains concerned about the emerging threat from China’s rise and views India as a reliable partner in the Indo-Pacific to checkmate Beijing.

File Image: Chinook Choppers

“Just as an increasingly provocative PRC is challenging the United States, it is also provoking India at every turn”, said Lu.

“We remain committed to accelerating progress in our ‘Major Defense Partnership’ and strengthening India’s capacity to deter PRC provocations, through robust naval cooperation, enhanced information and intelligence sharing, and increased cooperation in emerging domains such as space and cyberspace.”

Responding to a question on possible CAATSA sanctions against India, Lu said that it is for President Biden to decide whether to apply or waive sanctions on India for its purchase of the S-400 missiles from Russia. 

(Written by Tanmay Kadam/EurAsian Times Desk)