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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

In S-400 talks, US asks India to tighten security of defence technology

India has begun making advance payments 5 S-400s it is buying at an estimated cost of $5 billion in a deal signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin in October 2018.

world Updated: Nov 22, 2019 22:17 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Russian servicemen sit in the cabins of S-400 missile air defence systems in central Moscow, Russia April 29, 2019.
Russian servicemen sit in the cabins of S-400 missile air defence systems in central Moscow, Russia April 29, 2019. (Reuters photo)
         

As part of the ongoing discussions about India’s acquisition of Russian S-400 missile system, the United States has asked India to tighten its “defence technology security processes”, a senior state department official said Thursday.

But it was not clear if that was a requirement — the only one or one of several — that would allow India to get a waiver from secondary sanctions under a US law that seeks to punish Russia for the 2016 election meddling, called CAATSA (Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).

“We have pushed with Indians is: tighten up your procurement processes, tighten up your defence technology security processes and protocols, and then you’re putting yourselves in a much more mature space to be a tighter, closer partner,” the official told reporters.

The official had prefaced that with the apprehensions about Russians laying their hands on American technology in India’s possession — “we don’t want it (American equipment) exposed because some Russians walking the shop floor decide to go walk away and put it in their handbag or knapsack and take it back to Moscow. We’re not going to allow that”.

The US sanctions can be triggered by either payment being made of significant purchases or when they are delivered. India has begun making advance payments 5 S-400s it is buying at an estimated cost of $5 billion in a deal signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin in October 2018. India has insisted it will not be dictated on who it should buy arms from but has been talking to the US to find a way around the sanctions.

“We are getting there,” said a person familiar with the discussion. But there was no clarity if the tightening of “defense technology security process” is a precondition that could get India off the hook for CAATSA.

Though aimed primarily at punishing Russia by scaring away its arms buyers with the threat of secondary CAATSA sanctions, the United States has also expressed reservations about selling its unique defense technology to countries that also buy high-technology arms from Russia, saying it could adversely impact interoperability and expose American technology to Russia.

In development being observed closely by India, the United States has told Turkey, a NATO ally, to “get rid of” its S-400s, which it had begun receiving in July. The United States has threatened to shut Turkey out of the F-35 joint development and production programme and cancel its orders.

“There is room for Turkey to come back to the table. They know that to make this work they need to either destroy or return or somehow get rid of the S-400,” the official said.

Turkey’s purchase of S-400 figured prominently in talks President Donald Trump held with and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan in the White House last week. But there was no work on the outcome. Trump had only said, “We’ll work something out.”

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