Ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to India, New Delhi is expecting the US administration to grant a waiver from sanctions to its procurement of five S-400 missile defence systems from Russia over which a threat of sanctions is looming large.
India is of the firm view that the waiver can be granted by the US government as it meets the requirements prescribed in the American legislation on sanctions.
Diplomatic sources say that S-400 is an issue, a matter of concern for the US but the deal cannot be set aside as India has a long-standing relationship with Russia.
The much-anticipated S-400 long-range surface-to-air missile defence system deal with Russia has been in discussion for almost a decade.
The US is well aware why India is buying missile defence system and New Delhi has also explained the rationale behind it, sources asserted.
With regard to sanctions, the sources said, the American legislation is clear about the conditions under which a waiver can be granted by the US administration.
Commenting on the overall relationship between India and the US, the sources said that sometimes the ties face “collateral damage” because of Russia and Iran. But there is enough resilience in the Indo-US relationship, they added.
Brushing aside the threat of American sanctions, India in October last year signed the deal to buy five S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia in at an estimated cost of $5.43 billion.
Under the deal, Russia will supply five regiments of the highly-sophisticated missiles to India. These missiles will provide India umbrella coverage against any air-borne threats like fighter jets, missiles and UAVs.
The S-400 missile system, manufactured by Almaz-Antey, is capable of tracking and destroying hostile strategic bombers, jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380 km.
The US wants India to cancel the deal with Russia, failing which sanctions could be imposed.
Soon after the deal, President Donald Trump warned that India “will soon find out” about his decision on the punitive CAATSA sanctions.
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA sanctions, which was amended in 2018, only Trump has the authority for the presidential waiver to India on weapons deal with sanctions-hit Russia.
In April this year, former Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that New Delhi has been “heard and understood” by the US administration over its accord to buy the S-400 missile defence system from Russia.
Sitharaman had said that Washington has taken on board that India, bordering both Pakistan and China, needed arms from Russia, and others, to remain a “strong partner”.
However, in May, the Trump administration again warned that India’s decision to buy the long-range S-400 missile defense system from Russia will have “serious implications on Indo-US defence ties”.
Meanwhile, on Pompeo’s visit to India, diplomatic sources said that India was not looking at it from the aspect of deliverables.
“It is the first engagement with the new government, there is no structured dialogue, many issues can come up,” the sources were quoted as saying by ANI.
The visit is to establish an early connection and to know each other, they said, adding the trip is useful for input on what the two sides are going to do in future. Further, no MoUs are expected to be signed during the visit.