India-US military ties take a hit after American sanctions against Russia

The US has already flagged concerns about the proposed sale of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems to India saying it would complicate interoperability between Indian and American forces, and also asked India to lessen its dependence on Russian military hardware.

india Updated: Jun 29, 2018 09:04 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India,United States,Russia
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had earlier said that talks for buying the S-400 systems from Russia were in the final stage.(PTI)

The upward trajectory of India-US military relationship appears to have taken a hit because of American sanctions against Russia — the country’s top arms supplier — and resolving the problem has emerged as a top priority for New Delhi.

The US has already flagged concerns about the proposed sale of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems to India saying it would complicate interoperability between Indian and American forces, and also asked India to lessen its dependence on Russian military hardware.

Experts and senior military officials said it was impossible for India to sever its military ties with Russia and it would have to explore ways to bypass the American sanctions.

“Recent trends in the Indo-US relations, particularly the hard sanctions against Russia, would have major implications for India-Russia defence ties. The S-400 being a case in point as the American policy casts a shadow on the purchase,” said military affairs expert Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak (retd).

The US passed the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act earlier this year.

Russia accounted for 62% of India’s arms imports during 2013–17, according to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in March. It revealed that arms exports from the US jumped 557% in 2013-17 as compared to 2008-12, making it India’s second largest arms supplier.

Kak said it was crucial for India to sustain its ties with Russia and any dilution in the relationship would directly impact India’s operational preparedness. The government has made it very clear that CAATSA cannot be allowed to derail India’s military ties with Russia, said a senior army officer who did not wish to be named.

On June 5, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said talks for buying the S-400 systems were in the final stage and India had told the US that sanctions cannot impact Indo-Russian military cooperation.

India could ink a Rs 39,000-crore deal with Russia later this year for five advanced S-400 missile systems, capable of destroying jets, missiles and (UAVs) at a range of 400 km.

The setting up of the defence technology and trade initiative (DTTI) in 2012 has led to the deepening of India-US military cooperation. It seeks to identify opportunities for co-development and co-production of military hardware, collaborate on science and technology projects and jointly explore policy changes needed to further the military relationship.

The DoD established an exclusive India Rapid Reaction Cell in 2015 to support the DTTI. Since 2008, India has bought or ordered military equipment worth $15 billion from the US. Experts said while the volume of military purchases from the US was quite high, the bilateral relationship was devoid of strategic purpose. “Neither side has clarity about strategic intent,” said an expert.

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 07:41 IST