India-Russia defence ties will continue, PM to tell Putin

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold an “informal summit” at Sochi off the coast of Black Sea on May 21. Reuters file photo

When Modi and Putin hold an “informal summit” at Sochi off the coast of Black Sea, one of the issues likely to be discussed is the impact of the United States' sanctions on India's defence procurement from Russia.

Though no agenda has been set for the “informal summit”, the two leaders are likely to spend better part of the day exchanging views on “international and regional situation”, sources in New Delhi said. The two leaders are likely to leave most of the bilateral issues for discussion during the annual India-Russia summit in New Delhi later this year, added the sources.

Putin is expected to share with Modi his views on escalating tension between Russia and the West and, in the same context, the two leaders are likely to discuss the US sanctions on Russia and its impact on India's defence procurement from Russia.

Some of India's proposed big-ticket military hardware procurement from Russia may make it liable for actions by President Donald Trump's administration in Washington DC under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

The US Congress in July 2017 passed the CAATSA to impose sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea. Trump signed it into law in August 2017 and its scope was further expanded in October 2017.

Section 231 of CAATSA mandated secondary sanctions against any nation entering into high-value deals to procure military hardware from Russia.

Modi is likely to tell Putin that India would never allow “any third country” to dictate its military hardware requirement and procurement, a source said.

Third party 

The source hinted that India would not buckle under pressure from the US to stop procuring weapons and other defence equipment from Russia.

Over 60% of India's military hardware is sourced from Russia. Modi will convey to Putin that India would like to not only continue, but also expand its decades-old defence cooperation with Russia.

Sanctions

India has already asked the US to make sure that its entities do not become liable for action under the CAATSA once it finalises its defence deals with Russia, including the much-awaited $5.5 billion (or approximately Rs 39,000 crore) contract to procure S-400 Triumf air defence missile system. Sources said that New Delhi had already conveyed to Washington that given the long history of its defence cooperation with Moscow, it would not be possible for India to abruptly bring down its reliance on military hardware from Russia. It was also underlined that while India had been diversifying its military hardware procurement and the US had been a “net beneficiary” of it, New Delhi had no plan to scale down its decades-old defence cooperation with Russia.

Senior US military officials too have advised Trump Administration against invoking CAATSA to curtail India's defence ties with Russia. They are learnt to have warned that any move hamstringing military capabilities of India will undermine US strategic interests in Indo-Pacific.

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India-Russia defence ties will continue, PM to tell Putin

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