NEW DELHI: India has sealed a major deal to acquire S-400 air defense system from Russia affecting the balance of power in the South Asian region. The agreement to buy the world’s most lethal surface-to-air missile system was reached during Viladimir Putin’s visit to New Dehli last week.
The announcement of Pakistan-China military drones deal came in the immediate backdrop of recent Indian agreement of buying S-400 sophisticated missile defence systems from Russia. New Delhi disregarded US warnings that such a purchase could trigger sanctions under US law.
“The deal was signed on the fringes of the summit,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. The contract is estimated to be worth more than $5 billion and gives the Indian military the ability to shoot down aircraft and missiles at unprecedented ranges. But the United States has said countries trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors would face automatic sanctions under a sweeping legislation called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
A State Department spokesperson said this week that the implementation of the sanctions act would be focused at countries acquiring weapons such as the S-400 missile batteries. Last month, the United States imposed sanctions on China’s military for its purchase of combat fighters as well as the S-400 missile system it bought from Russia this year.
India is hoping that President Donald Trump’s administration will give it a waiver on the weapons systems which New Delhi sees as a deterrent against China’s bigger and superior military. After summit talks between Putin and Modi, the two countries signed eight agreements covering space, nuclear energy and railways at a televised news conference.
It is significant that Washington will not impose military sanctions on India for purchasing the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, the spokeswoman for the US Embassy in New Delhi told Arab News. Under US domestic law, Washington can impose sanctions on any country that undertakes significant transactions with Iran, North Korea or Russia.
India and Russia signed the $5 billion S-400 deal on Friday at a summit in New Delhi between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russia President Vladimir Putin. “For India, the deal was related to its foreign policy autonomy,” Meena Singh Roy, a research fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA), told Arab News.
Zakir Hussain, a research fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), said: “Washington wants India to be completely dependent on it for all its military wherewithal, and the objection to the S-400 deal was a reflection of that mindset.” He added: “New Delhi’s decision to go ahead with the deal is in effect a reassertion of its sovereign rights.”