‘ Buy­ing Rus­sian S- 400s In­dia’s sov­er­eign de­ci­sion’

■ US skirts re­sponse on if it will at­tract sanc­tions

The Asian Age - - Nation - SANJIB KR BARUAH

Deftly skirt­ing a di­rect re­sponse on whether In­dia buy­ing the pow­er­ful S- 400 Tri­umf air de­fence sys­tem from Rus­sia would at­tract Amer­i­can sanc­tions, the US has said it is In­dia’s own ‘ sov­er­eign’ de­ci­sion if it does so.

Re­spond­ing to a query on whether In­dia’s planned buy­ing of the S400 will at­tract pro­vi­sions un­der CAATSA ( Coun­ter­ing Amer­ica’s Ad­ver­saries Through Sanc­tions Act), Pen­tagon chief spokesper­son Dana W. White was quoted as telling re­porters on Thurs­day in a com­mu­niqué sent to this news­pa­per: “I can’t com­ment on pend­ing leg­is­la­tion. But what I can say is that, ul­ti­mately, those de­ci­sions are sov­er­eign de­ci­sions, and so those are de­ci­sions that In­dia has to make for it­self.” His­tor­i­cally, In­dia and Rus­sia have been close mil­i­tary al­lies with more than 60 per cent of In­dia’s de­fence equip­ment be­ing of Rus­sian ori­gin. But of late, a cer­tain ap­pre­hen­sion is be­lieved to have crept in their ties due to In­dia’s fast grow­ing prox­im­ity to the US.

CAATSA be­came a US fed­eral leg­is­la­tion af­ter be­ing signed into law by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Au­gust 2, 2017 that seeks to im­pose sanc­tions on Rus­sia, Iran, and North Ko­rea. Un­der CAATSA, five Rus­sian en­ti­ties in­clud­ing Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and 19 in­di­vid­u­als were be­ing tar­geted in re­sponse to charges that they tried to in­flu­ence the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

In­ter­est­ingly, on March 16, 11 US se­na­tors wrote a let­ter to the US State Depart­ment ask­ing for im­po­si­tion of sanc­tions that buy the Rus­sian S- 400 sys­tem. Be­sides In­dia, four more coun­tries China, Turkey, Saudi Ara­bia, and Qatar, are keen to ac­quire the S- 400.

In­dia is ex­pected to buy five S- 400 sys­tems from the Rus­sians the de­liv­ery of which will be com­pleted in 54 months time. One of the most pow­er­ful mis­sile sys­tems in ex­is­tence, the S- 400 can counter the com­plete range of air­borne threats in­clud­ing bombers, stealth fighters, mis­siles and drones at a range of up to 600 km and upto 30 km alti­tude and a ca­pac­ity to en­gage up to 36 tar­gets at one time.

US- Rus­sia bi­lat­eral ties have been se­verely hit by a poi­son gas at­tack on Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter in UK’s Sal­is­bury on March 4, which the Western pow­ers sus­pect to have been en­gi­neered by Rus­sia.

This has led to a spate of ex­pul­sions of diplo­mats by the Western pow­ers as well as by Rus­sia as on Thurs­day. Skri­pal is a for­mer Rus­sian spy and dou­ble agent who also later spied for UK’s in­tel­li­gence ser­vices dur­ing the 1990s and early 2000s.

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