De­fy­ing US, In­dia inks arms deal with Rus­sia

Mint Asia ST - - News - BEY LIZABETH R OCHE

In­dia

and Rus­sia deep­ened their strate­gic part­ner­ship on 5 Septem­ber by sign­ing nine pacts, in­clud­ing a multi-bil­lion dol­lar deal for New Delhi to buy the S-400 Tri­umf air de­fence mis­sile sys­tem de­spite warn­ings from the United States that the move could at­tract sanc­tions on In­dia un­der an Amer­i­can do­mes­tic law.

A joint state­ment is­sued af­ter talks be­tween vis­it­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi con­firmed the $5.4 bil­lion deal, though nei­ther leader re­ferred to it in their re­marks to re­porters.

An­other ex­pected de­fence pact on In­dia ac­quir­ing four frigates from Rus­sia was not signed as the two sides were yet to agree on some is­sues.

Putin ar­rived in New Delhi on Thurs­day to a red car­pet wel­come, on a day when the US, Bri­tain and the Nether­lands ac­cused Rus­sia of in­volve­ment in a se­ries of cy­ber plots across the globe, adding to ten­sions be­tween Moscow and Western na­tions on a host of is­sues.

In­dia’s move to ac­quire the S-400, which has the abil­ity to track mul­ti­ple in­com­ing tar­gets, in­clud­ing air­craft, mis­siles and un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles, up to 400km in dis­tance and 30km in al­ti­tude, can at­tract sanc­tions un­der the Coun­ter­ing Amer­ica’s Ad­ver­saries Through Sanc­tions Act (Caatsa) passed by the US Congress on arms pur­chases from Rus­sia.

The US em­bassy in New Delhi said on Fri­day that Caatsa was not aimed at stymieing the mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties of its “al­lies or part­ners”, a state­ment seen in New Delhi as in­dica­tive of a pos­si­ble waiver com­ing through from Wash­ing- ton. “Waivers of the Coun­ter­ing Amer­ica’s Ad­ver­saries Through Sanc­tions Act (Caatsa) sec­tion 231 will be con­sid­ered on a trans­ac­tionby-trans­ac­tion ba­sis. We can­not pre­judge any sanc­tions de­ci­sions,” the US em­bassy spokesper­son in New Delhi said. “The in­tent of our im­ple­men­ta­tion of Caatsa is to im­pose costs on Rus­sia for its malign be­hav­iour, in­clud­ing by stop­ping the flow of money to Rus­sia’s de­fence sec­tor,” the em­bassy said. On the waiver it­self, it said: “The waiver author­ity is not for a blan­ket waiver. It is trans­ac­tion-spe­cific. There are strict cri­te­ria for con­sid­er­ing a waiver.”

Nei­ther Putin nor Modi re­ferred to the US in their re­marks to re­porters, though peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the de­vel­op­ments said that there was a dis­cus­sion “about all ma­jor world pow­ers”.

In­dia and Rus­sia also signed a pre­lim­i­nary pact to build six more nu­clear re­ac­tors at a new site in the coun­try. Rus­sian state-owned re­ac­tor man­u­fac­turer Rosatom said the two coun­tries want to build six Rus­sian-de­sign nu­clear re­ac­tors on a new site in In­dia, boost nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion in third coun­tries and are con­sid­er­ing build­ing nu­clear plants to­gether. Rus­sia would of­fer to build its third-gen­er­a­tion VVER re­ac­tor on the new site and would in­crease the level of par­tic­i­pa­tion of In­dian com­pa­nies in the project.

One of the nine pacts signed was in the area of space co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia promis­ing sup­port to launch two In­di­ans into space in 2022, which was an­nounced by Modi in his In­de­pen­dence Day speech this year. Rus­sia has also evinced in­ter­est in col­lab­o­ra­tion in the railways and civil­ian air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the de­vel­op­ment said. In­dia on its part is keen for its phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to find a foothold in Rus­sian mar­kets, the per­son said. Both sides have set the tar­get for in­creas­ing bi­lat­eral trade to $30 bil­lion by 2025 from $10.7 bil­lion in 2017-18.

Asit Ran­jan Mishra in New Delhi con­trib­uted to this story.

YURI KADOBNOV/AFP

Old friends: Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin with PM Naren­dra Modi. Putin ar­rived in Delhi to a red car­pet wel­come, on a day when the US, Bri­tain and the Nether­lands ac­cused Rus­sia of in­volve­ment in a se­ries of cy­ber plots across the globe.

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