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‘India will soon find out’: Donald Trump on sanctions for mega defence deal with Russia

India last week inked a $5 billion deal to purchase S-400 Triumf air defence system from Russia. The mega deal was sealed in New Delhi during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit.

world Updated: Oct 11, 2018 13:14 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Washington
India Russia deal,US sanctions,S-400
Last week, the White House had said that the US presidential waiver on weapons deal with sanctions-hit Russia is intended to “wean” countries like India off the Russian equipment.(REUTERS)

In his first reaction to India signing a multi-billion dollar deal with Russia for the S-400 missile defence system despite the threat of US sanctions, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that New Delhi would soon ‘find out’ about Washington’s response.

Trump said he would announce soon if he will, or will not, exempt India’s purchase from secondary sanctions under a law that seeks primarily to penalize Moscow for annexing Crimea and allegedly interfering in American elections in 2016.

“India is going to find out, aren’t they?” Trump said ominously at a news conference in response to a question from reporters about India signing a $ 4.5 billion deal with Russia last week during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to New Delhi.

“You’ll see,” the president said in response to another question about the timing of his decision. “Sooner than you think.”

The US president did not, as noted by observers and experts, say he will waive sanctions as has been requested by India.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis had earlier argued the case for a waiver to India. Last week, the White House had said that the US presidential waiver on weapons deal with sanctions-hit Russia is intended to “wean” countries like India off the Russian equipment.

The president has never spoken publicly before of his thinking on this 2017 law — Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) -- and S-400s, but a leading expert on US-India relations has said in a recent article that Tump is personally opposed to the proliferation of S-400s and the recent sanctioning of the Chinese military for purchasing these equipment has been pointed out as a proof.

The United States had issued a thinly-veiled warning just the day before Putin’s arrival in New Delhi that S-400s were a “focus area” of secondary US sanctions against countries — such as India and other buyers of Russian military hardware — that made “significant” purchases from designated entities in Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

Both the White House and the state department had underlined it pointing to the recent sanctioning of Chinese military department for buying S-400s. “Our recent action to sanction a Chinese government entity for an S-400 delivery underscores the seriousness of our resolve on this issue” a spokesperson for the US president’s national security council had told Hindustan Times in response to a query sent before India signed the S-400 deal.

Equipment Development Department of the Chinese military was the first entity sanctioned. It is a part of China’s Central Military Commission and is charged with R&D, developing, procuring defense equipment for the military.

New Delhi went into the Russia deal hoping, and expecting, to get a waiver based on Mattis’s testimony before a congressional committee in which he had appealed for wider powers for the president to exempt countries like India and Indonesia to draw them away from Russia.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that India “will soon find out” about his decision on the punitive CAATSA sanctions after India signed a $5 billion deal to purchase the much-vaunted S-400 air defence system from Russia.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA sanctions, which was amended early this year, only Trump has the authority for the presidential waiver to India on weapons deal with sanctions-hit Russia.

India last week inked a $5 billion deal to purchase S-400 Triumf air defence system from Moscow. The mega deal was sealed in New Delhi during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Asked about the agreement between India and Russia, Trump while interacting with reporters in the Oval Office of the White House, said, “India will find out. Aren’t they?” “India is going to find out,” he reiterated in response to India specific question.

Asked when, he said, “You will see. Sooner than you think.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also in the room when Trump answered the question on CAATSA sanctions. Pompeo was scheduled to meet the president later.

Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis had earlier argued the case for a waiver to India. Last week, the White House had said that the US presidential waiver on weapons deal with sanctions-hit Russia is intended to “wean” countries like India off the Russian equipment.

“The (CAATSA presidential) waiver is narrow, intended to wean countries off Russian equipment and allow for things such as spare parts for previously-purchased equipment,” a White House National Security Council Spokesperson had said after the conclusion of the S-400 contract.

The US embassy spokesperson in New Delhi had said that the CAATSA was aimed at Moscow and not intended to damage the military capabilities of its “allies and partners.”

First Published: Oct 11, 2018 07:27 IST