Amid US pressure, India inks S-400 deal with Russia

Amid US pressure, India inks S-400 deal with Russia

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shows the way to Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, October 5, 2018. (REUTERS)

India on Friday inked a contract to buy five S-400 air defence systems from Russia, even as the deal could make it vulnerable to sanctions by the United States.

The Rs 39,000-crore contract was inked on the sidelines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi. The two sides also signed eight pacts for cooperation in other areas like space, railways, transport, agriculture, micro and small industries and nuclear energy.

READ MORE: The S-400 Triumf: A Russian masterpiece

On the sidelines of the summit, Indian and Russian officials also discussed setting up an Indian space station in Siberia.

India inked the deal to buy S-400 Triumf long-range surface-to-air missile systems from Almaz-Antey Corporation of Russia, although it could make its entities vulnerable to sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). India has been optimistic about securing a waiver from US sanctions for the deal. Soon after Modi and Putin announced the conclusion of contract in a joint statement, the US too hinted that it might not impose the sanctions mandated by Section 231 of CAATSA on India for buying missile systems from Russia.

“Intent of our implementation of CAATSA is to impose costs on Russia for its malign behaviour, including by stopping flow of money to its defence sector. CAATSA is not intended to impose damage to the military capabilities of our allies or partners,” a spokesperson of the US embassy in New Delhi said.

The spokesperson, however, said that the US would take calls on granting CAATSA waivers on case-to-case basis and it would not be immediately possible to prejudge if India would also get an exemption after it struck the S-400 Triumf deal with Russia.

READ MORE: S-400 Triumf: India optimistic about getting US waiver

New Delhi argued that while India had started discussion with Russia to buy S-400 Triumf missiles long ago, the US Congress passed the CAATSA and the US president signed it into law only last year. Sources said that New Delhi had decided to clinch the deal in view of “certain defence requirement” and “the overall national security interests”.

Modi also joined Putin to call for “fair, just and multipolar world order” and stressed on “strengthening multilateralism” — sending out another tacit message to Trump, who is perceived to be pursuing nationalist and unilateralist policies. They also called for “full and effective implementation” of the deal the 'P-5 +1' (the US, four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany) and European Union inked with Iran in 2015 to end the row over the controversial nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic.

Trump, earlier this year, withdrew the US from the nuclear deal with Iran and moved to reimpose sanctions targeting oil exports from the West Asian nation. The US has since been nudging India to cut down crude oil import from Iran. Putin on Friday told Modi that Russia could augment its oil production to stabilise international crude market in case of any disruption in supply from Iran.

The prime minister and the Russian president stressed “strengthening of open, inclusive, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based multilateral trade system and prevention of fragmentation of international trade relations and trade protectionism in all forms”.

The other pacts inked by New Delhi and Moscow on Friday included one to set a framework for Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) to get support from its Russian counterpart Roscosmos for India's first manned mission to low earth orbit, “Gaganyaan”. The summit also saw both sides coming out with an “action plan” to take forward bilateral civil nuclear cooperation, with New Delhi agreeing to allot a new site for Russia to build another atomic power plant in India, after the completion of works on the six units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.