Russia's ties with China, Pak prods India to buy S-400

Russia's ties with China, Pak prods India to buy S-400

Moscow's growing defence cooperation with Pakistan and China prompted India to clinch the deal to buy the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missiles from Russia last week, even as the contract exposed it to the risk of coming under US sanctions.

India inked the contract to buy five S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft weapon systems from Almaz-Antey Corporation of Russia on the sidelines of the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on October 5.

New Delhi is also likely to move fast on the proposed deals with Moscow for Russia-India cooperation to build two advanced warships for the Indian Navy. Two warships will be built at Yantar Shipyard in Russia and the other two at Goa Shipyard in India. A deal for JSC Kalashnikov Concern of Russia to manufacture over half-a-million AK-103 rifles in India in partnership with a local company may also be inked within the next few months.

India's Rs 39,000 crore S-400 missile deal with Russia could make its entities liable for US sanctions under Section 231 of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). New Delhi still went ahead and inked the contract with Moscow, as it was worried over Russia’s recent moves to step up its military cooperation with Pakistan in response to India’s growing defence ties with the US.

Moscow of late agreed to open up Russia's military training facilities for the officials of the armed forces of Pakistan. Russia also inked a naval cooperation agreement with Pakistan just about a couple of months before Modi-Putin summit in New Delhi. Besides, Russia's recent move to provide Pakistan a sophisticated radar system to protect its nuclear power station in Karachi too added to the unease in New Delhi, DH learnt from the sources, who were involved with the preparation for the prime minister's meeting with the Russian president.

India, according to the sources, was also concerned over Russia-China defence cooperation – particularly China's participation in Vostok-2018 military drill in Russia – and the possibility of emergence of a Russia-China-Pakistan axis.

Moscow's moves ahead of Modi-Putin summit sent out a tacit message to New Delhi – if India wants to arrest the drift in its decades-old defence ties with Russia, it must add new momentum to the relationship by moving fast on the proposed deals. New Delhi finally had to come out of its dilemma and ink the S-400 deal with Moscow, even as Washington D.C. remained non-committal on granting a waiver for it from Section 231 of the CAATSA, which provides for imposition of US sanctions on nations striking big-ticket defence deals with Russia.

Russia has since long been the largest supplier of military hardware to India and has been maintaining its defence cooperation with Pakistan at a very low level.

India’s growing ties with the US over the past few years, however, prompted Russia to respond to Pakistan’s overtures. Moscow and Islamabad started discussing sale of Russian Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan in 2014 and the delivery of the choppers purportedly begun early this year. Russia in November 2015 also inked a defence cooperation agreement with Pakistan and the two nations had their first military drill in September-October, 2016 – just weeks after India signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US.