Ahead of 2+2 talks, India hopes US takes lenient view of Russia arms deal, Iran oil imports
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will discuss collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region and other issues with US secretary of state, Mike R Pompeo and defence secretary James Mattis.Updated: Sep 05, 2018, 07:46 IST
Ahead of the two-plus-two plus dialogue between India and the US on September 6, New Delhi is hoping Washington understands its sensitivities and compulsions and takes a lenient view on its oil imports from Iran and purchase of S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia, people familiar with the planning that has gone into the meeting said.
The focus of the meeting itself will be on the two countries working together in the Indo-Pacific region, the finalisation of a foundational defence pact, the designation of terrorists, and visa issues. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will discuss these with US Secretary of State Mike R Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis at the inaugural edition of the dialogue, which will also be the highest-level political engagement between India and the US this year, said the sources.
India, which is aware the US?is unlikely to give it a blanket waiver for arms deals with Russia, is hoping the country will give one for the purchase of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles, thereby giving it immunity from a 2017 US?law that requires the US president to penalise countries that have “significant transaction” with Russia’s defence sector.
Russia is India’s biggest defence partner and one of its most trusted allies.
“We hope that they understand that India has strategic partnership with other countries too,” said one of the people mentioned in the first instance.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in July that India and Russia are close to concluding the S-400 deal and that India would go forward with the deal, adding that the new US law isn’t binding on India.
Indian officials have subsequently told their US counterparts that they have been diversifying the country’s defence purchases. The government recently approved a $2-billion government-to government deal for the purchase of 24 naval helicopters from US firm, Lockheed. Turkey, a NATO ally of the US, is also planning to buy the S-400 air defence system.
India is also in discussions with the US on the import of Iran crude, which falls afoul of the sanctions imposed by America on the West Asian nation. The person cited above said 83% of India’s total oil requirement is met by import, and that of this, 24% comes from Iran. “It is an important issue for us. Iran is a major source of crude import for us. We will take a decision free from external pressures.”
In May, the US?withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions that had been suspended in return for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme. The people cited in the first instance said the Indian position is consistent; that it is against the Iran acquiring nuclear weapons but have the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Secretary of State, Pompeo, arrives in New Delhi late Wednesday from Islamabad. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, will also be part of the US delegation.
Swaraj and Sitharaman will have separate bilateral meetings with their US counterparts Thursday morning before the delegation-level two-plus-two talks continue over a working lunch; 12 officials from each side are expected to attend the talks, which will be followed by a luncheon.