New Straits Times
PUTIN SEEKS INDIA ARMS DEAL
Key feature of visit is RM21b defence system deal, say Russian ministers
RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin headed for India yesterday looking to tie up billions of dollars in arms deals with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, likely irking the United States, China and Pakistan in one fell swoop.
The Kremlin said before the two-day visit by Putin and top Russian ministers that the “key feature” would be the signing of a US$5 billion (RM21 billion) deal for the S-400 air defence system, despite the risk of US sanctions against countries buying Russian defence kit.
On the eve of Putin’s arrival later Thursday, the US poured cold water on India’s efforts to obtain a waiver to avoid sanctions under legislation called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (Caatsa).
Upgrades in arms systems “including the S-400 air and missile defense system” would be a particular focus for Caatsa, a US State Department spokesman was quoted as saying by India’s PTI news agency.
Last month, Washington slapped financial sanctions on the Chinese military for buying Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and the S-400.
However, the US is in a difficult position when it comes to India. It wants to bolster ties with New Delhi to counter China’s growing assertiveness, something that has also rattled India.
Washington and New Delhi announced plans last month for joint military drills in 2019, and agreed on the exchange of sensitive military information. The US is now India’s second biggest arms supplier.
But Russia remains number one, and a string of new deals with the Asian giant would be a major win for Moscow — and a big snub to the US.
Putin and Modi, who appear to enjoy a personal rapport, are also likely to discuss a deal for four Krivak-class frigates worth US$2 billion and 200 light utility Ka-226 helicopters pegged at US$1 billion.
“It’s about time we showed that we are not going to be pushed a r o u n d b y Wa s h i n g t o n ,” R . R . Subramanian, a Delhi-based strategic affairs analyst, said.
Experts say India needs the S400 to fill critical gaps in its defence capabilities, in view of China’s rise and perceived threats from Pakistan, against whom India has fought three wars.
Indian Air Force Chief Birender Singh Dhanoa said on Wednesday that the S-400, and the 36 Rafale fighter jets purchased from France — a 2016 deal mired in political controversy — represent a “booster dose” for the country.
Last year, India and China had a military standoff over a Himalayan plateau claimed by Beijing and Bhutan, a close ally of India. China has also perturbed India by loaning vast amounts of money to countries such as Sri Lanka where it has long held sway.