The United States has assured New Delhi that it has no intention of penalising its “great strategic partner” like India through sanctions for its defence partnership with Russia.

At the ‘2+2’ ministerial-level dialogue in New Delhi on Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington fully understood the history of India’s defence ties with Russia, particularly the legacy systems.

The punitive action against Russia under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was not intended to adversely impact countries like India but to impact Moscow, Secretary Pompeo is said to have told External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the meeting.

The Indian side explained to Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis how important Russia was for India’s defence needs in view of the history of India-Russia military cooperation.

Both sides agreed to remain in touch over India’s proposed deal with Russia for the purchase of S-400 Triumph missile defence systems. Pompeo later told reporters accompanying him on his India trip that no decision had been made on S-400 deal. ‘’We are working to impose CAATSA Section 231 in a way that is appropriate and lawful and to exercise that waiver authority only where it makes sense,’’ he said. Indications are that the two sides might initiate a separate dialogue solely on sanctions waiver.

On India’s oil purchases from Iran, Pompeo said he had told the Indian side consistently that on 4 November, the sanctions with respect to Iranian crude would be enforced, and that waivers would be considered where appropriate. It was America’s expectation that the purchases of Iranian crude oil would go to zero from every country, or sanctions would be imposed, he is understood to have said.

He said Washington would work with India in this regard. ‘’Many countries are in a place where they – it takes a little bit of time to unwind, and we’ll work with them, I am sure, to find an outcome that makes sense,’’ he added.

Pompeo said the US would be happy if it was able to deliver American products to those countries which were dependent on Iranian oil. ‘’Our mission is to make sure that Iran doesn’t engage in malign behaviour with wealth that comes from countries around the world,’’ he added.