(This was originally posted in NDTV by Vishnu Som)
New Delhi: There has been no discussion on possible American sanctions over India’s plan to buy long-range S-400 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia, visiting US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin told reporters today. “India hasn’t acquired the S-400 Russian missile system yet, so the issue of sanctions were not discussed,” Mr Austin said.
India’s plan to buy the S-400 missiles was a thorny issue expected to come up during the US Secretary of Defence’s visit. The purchase of the Russian air defence systems could attract sanctions under US law. Washington has imposed sanctions on Turkey for buying that equipment.
“We have countries that we have worked from time to time that have required Russian equipment over the years. We certainly urge all our allies and partners to move away from Russian equipment… and really avoid any kind of acquisition that would trigger sanctions on our behalf… there has been no delivery of an S-400 system to India, so the issue of sanctions has not been discussed, but we did address with the Minister of Defence the issue of S-400,” Mr Austin said.
India signed a $5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems in October 2018. The previous Trump administration had warned that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA. Under this law, the US imposes sanctions on any country that has “significant transactions” with Iran, North Korea or Russia. The S-400 is one of the world’s most advanced long-range air defence systems. China was the first nation to buy the S-400 missile system in 2014. Russia has already started deliveries of an undisclosed number of the S-400 missile system to Beijing.
Mr Austin met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval after landing in India yesterday. He is on a three-day visit, and India was the third stop during his three-nation hop – he went to Japan and South Korea before reaching Delhi. Mr Austin met with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today.