India hopes to avoid US sanctions over $5.2 mega defence deal

India hopes to avoid US sanctions over $5.2 mega defence deal
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*NEW DELHI: India is hopeful it will avoid US sanctions over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told AFP.*

New Delhi has been “heard and understood” by the US administration over its accord to buy the S-400 missile defence system for $5.2 billion, the minister said in an interview this week.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin in October, defying US warnings of sanctions on countries buying Russian military equipment. The sanctions were part of measures to punish Moscow for its actions in Ukraine in 2014.

President Donald Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on China’s military last year over Beijing’s purchase of the S-400 and other military hardware.

It has also warned NATO member Turkey of sanctions for buying the S-400, and has suspended Turkey’s participation in a US jet programme.

Sitharaman told AFP that Washington has taken on board that India , bordering both Pakistan and China, needed arms from Russia, and others, to remain a “strong partner”.

Negotiations with Moscow, a longstanding supplier to India’s military, on the S-400 began before the US sanctions were introduced, she said.

“In the case of S-400 we have explained ourselves well… That has been heard and understood,” Sitharaman said. “They have appreciated the point of view put forward.”

Asked if she was confident that India would avoid sanctions, Sitharaman said: “Yes I hope so.” *Cold water*

Before the deal was inked, Washington poured cold water on India’s efforts to obtain a waiver from the US 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 spokesperson was quoted as saying by India’s PTI news agency.

But Randall Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, told a hearing in March that Washington wanted to “work through” the problem, calling India “an important emerging strategic partner.”

He added however that India’s contract with Russia has not been completed and that the US was “very keen to see (India) make an alternative choice (to the S-400) and we are working with them to provide potential alternatives.” - APP/AFP

New Delhi