(This was originally posted in The Hindu by Sriram Lakshman)
Three Republican Senators have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act FY2022 – an annual defence budget bill – to make it harder for the executive branch of the U.S. government to impose sanctions on members of the Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue (Quad) for buying Russian arms. The move comes as India is expected to take delivery of the S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Moscow — possibly this month or next, potentially attracting sanctions under U.S. domestic law , the Countering Americas Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017.
The latest legislation , called the Circumspectly Reducing Unintended Consequences 15 Impairing Alliances and Leadership (CRUCIAL) Act of 2021, requires the U.S. President to certify to “appropriate congressional committees” that a U.S. Quad partner country (India, Australia, Japan) is not cooperating on “security matters critical to the United States strategic interests,” prior to applying CAATSA sanctions on entities from that country. Effectively, this would mean the administration would have to say the Quad is dysfunctional, before imposing invoking CAATSA sanctions on its members.
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The amendment is sponsored by Ted Cruz, a Republican Senator from Texas who is part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and co-sponsored by Republican Senators Todd Young (Indiana) and Roger Marshall (Kansas). If the amendment goes through, this certification requirement will be in effect for ten years from the date of its passage. While it is not certain that the amendment will pass, its introduction is one of several recent signals that some U.S. lawmakers have recently been sending the administration to convey their desire not to see India sanctioned under CAATSA.
“Now would be exactly the wrong time for President Biden to undo all of that progress through the imposition of these sanctions, which were meant to deter Russia. Doing so would accomplish nothing except undermining our shared security goals of combatting China’s aggression and forcing India to become dependent on Russia,” Mr, Cruz said in a statement. Speaking to The Hindu, a Senate Republican aide said that lawmakers recognised the security situation India has with China.
India is at the “centre” of the Quad countries “cooperating to counter China,” the aide said, and is “the only Quad member that actually shares a border with China, the only Quad member that has actually lost soldiers in combat with China.” However, the authors’ intent is to also see a change in India’s procurement practices within a ten year time frame. “So I think I the consideration is that 2033-2034 and beyond, if India is still going to Russia, and is not taking steps to deepen ties with the Quad, I think that’s when it would be a different conversation,” the aide said. “So I do think there needs to be steps taken over time.”