US law waiver on S-400 missile system: What lies ahead for India

In a big relief for India, the US has decided not to impose sanctions under its stringent law Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for purchasing S-400 missile systems from Russia.

After New Delhi’s purchase of the S-400 air defence system, there was a threat of US sanctions but the Indian government had always been confident of bypassing these. This has been made possible as the US House of Representatives passed a legislative amendment waiving off any punitive sanctions on India under CAATSA.

The law was brought in 2017 and provides for punitive actions by the US government against any country striking defence and intelligence deals with Russia, Iran and North Korea.

What is the legislative amendment that clears India from CAATSA

The legislative amendment was passed on Thursday during floor consideration of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA). It is significant that during the discussions there was a reference to US supporting India amid China’s growing belligerence.

“The United States must stand with India in the face of escalating aggression from China. As Vice Chair of the India Caucus, I have been working to strengthen the partnership between our countries and ensure that India can defend itself along the Indian Chinese border,” said Ro Khanna, the US representative from California’s 17th congressional district who authored and introduced the amendment.

“This amendment is of the utmost importance, and I am proud to see it pass the House on a bipartisan basis,” he said.

Why India needs S-400 and status of delivery

India had signed the $5 billion deal with Russia for purchase of five units of the S-400 ignoring a warning on the possibility of sanctions from the then-Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions.

So, effectively India can freely use the S-400 missile systems, deliveries of which have already started and the first unit has been handed over to the Indian Air Force and deployed along the Western front in the Punjab sector. Four more units are to be delivered, with one unit expected every six months.

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The S-400 is a mobile long range surface to air missile system which is considered one of the most lethal in the world. It can take down multiple targets up to a range of 400 km. Be it fighter jets, bombers, cruise and ballistic missiles or drones. With four different kinds of missiles it has beyond visual range capabilities. It can engage multiple targets, which includes tracking of 160 objects in a 600 km range and hit 72 targets up to 400 km.

The four different missile have varied capabilities—short range 40 km, medium range 120 km, long range 180 km and very long range 400 km.

Russia has made it clear that the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Moscow will not impact the deliveries to India.

CAATSA imposed on Turkey

China and Turkey are also among the nations that China has provided this potent weapon system to. Turkey faced US sanctions under the law for purchasing S-400 from Russia.

On December 14, 2020, the then Secretary of State Micheal R Pompeo in a statement said, “The United States is imposing sanctions on the Republic of Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB) pursuant to Section 231 of the CAATSA for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction with Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms export entity, by procuring the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. The sanctions include a ban on all US export licenses and authorizations to SSB and an asset freeze and visa restrictions on Dr. Ismail Demir, SSB’s president, and other SSB officers.”

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“The United States made clear to Turkey at the highest levels and on numerous occasions that its purchase of the S-400 system would endanger the security of U.S. military technology and personnel and provide substantial funds to Russia’s defense sector, as well as Russian access to the Turkish armed forces and defense industry,” the statement added.

Following the US sanctions on Turkey over the procurement of S-400 missile systems, there were apprehensions that Washington may impose similar punitive measures on India.

Future deals with Russia

While S-400 deal will not attract sanctions there is a long list of pending military deals with Russia.

India and Russia signed a military tech cooperation agreement 2021-2031 during the maiden 2+2 dialogue in December 2021 aimed at bolstering defence ties over the next decade. Orders for military platforms worth over $9 billion are at stake for India.

Here are some of the big ticket purchases expected from Russia.

AK 203 assault rifle

The Indian army’s requirement of assault rifles was expected to be met by the production of 6.71 lakh AK 203 rifles to be manufactured in Korwa, Amethi in Uttar Pradesh as part of a joint venture with Russia but the Make in India project faced delays. The wait is over as all hurdles have been cleared.

The contract is worth Rs 5000 crores for procurement of 6,01,427 AK-203 Assault Rifles through Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited will be manufactured in India. In addition, 70,000 rifles will be procured off the shelf from Russia.

Nuclear powered submarine

In 2019, India signed signed a $3 billion deal with Russia for leasing a nuclear-powered submarine. The Chakra III, Akula class submarine is expected to be delivered by 2025 for a period of 10 years. This will be the third nuclear submarine India will take on lease from Russia, the other two being in 1988 for a period of three years and then in 2012 for 10 years. The lease for this will end this year.

Four Grigorovich class frigates

The deal between Russia’s state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport and Goa Shipyard Ltd was signed in 2018. According to the terms and conditions, two frigates for the Indian Navy worth $ 1 billion are to be manufactured in Russia and the other two in Goa was signed in 2018.

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The delivery of the two frigates were supposed to start within four years of signing of the contact, which means by the end of 2022.

Fighter jets

In July 2020, at the peak of the military tussle with China in Ladakh, India approved the purchase of 12 Su-30 MKIs and 21 MiG 29 fighter aircraft and an upgrade of the existing fleet of the Russian 59 MiG 29s worth Rs. 18,148 crore.

While negotiations were said to be on, US has claimed India has cancelled the orders of the MiG 29 from Russia. However, there has been no response from Indian on the claims made by US.

In July 2021, Valeria Reshetnikova, Spokesperson for Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation had said that Russia sent a commercial offer and a tender request for the aircraft.

— ENDS —

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