‘We will work it out’, US assures India on Russian S-400
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‘We will work it out’, US assures India on Russian S-400

In her remarks, Sitharaman gave no explicit indication that the threat of US sanctions for S-400 purchases was an issue she wanted to raise.

world Updated: Dec 04, 2018 10:05 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Washington
US,United States,India
India recently placed an order for five S-400 missile defence systems, for an estimated $5 billion.(PTI)

US defence secretary James Mattis expressed confidence on Monday, before and during his meeting with visiting Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, the two sides will “work everything out” regarding the threat of sanctions facing India for buying Russian S-400 missile defence systems.

“We’ll sort out all those issues here today, and in the days ahead,” Mattis told reporters when asked about the S-400 deal as he waited for the Indian defence minister’s arrival at the Pentagon, and sought to portray discussions on the issue as “normal collaboration and consultation”.

“We’ll work everything out, trust me,” Mattis said in response to another specific question about the S-400 deal asked by a reported before the two officials went into closed-door formal talks accompanied by their military and diplomatic officials.

In her remarks, Sitharaman gave no explicit indication that the threat of US sanctions for S-400 purchases was an issue she wanted to raise. “I look forward to spending some time on specifics of the issues that we have been engaged in, building on the discussions and outcomes of the 2+2 meetings,” she said.

But, diplomatic sources on both sides warned India should be careful to “not take one waiver as blanket waiver deals” and feel encouraged to pursue more such deals.

Officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said “these daily press leaks of arms deals with Russians” as the kind of “unnecessary provocation’ India and the US can do without.

India recently placed an order for five S-400 missile defence systems, for an estimated $5 billion, despite the prospects of the deal attracting secondary sanctions under a US law — Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (better known by acronym CAATSA) — that seeks to punish Russia for interfering in the 2016 elections and grabbing Crimea from Ukraine by scaring away their major importers, such as India.

India hopes, and is somewhat confident, it will get a waiver from the sanction given the state of ties between the two countries, but it has not received any specific assurance yet and is nervous about reports president Donald Trump is personally opposed to the proliferation of S-400s, which is also on the shopping list of NATO ally Turkey.

The administration recently sanctioned a Chinese military wing for buying these missile defence systems and went as far as to designate the official heading it, by name.

India has felt encouraged by the support it has received on this from Mattis, who has emerged as the staunchest supporter of stronger US ties with India among all of Trump administration’s top officials. It was acknowledged by the Indian defence minister in her remarks at the Pentagon. “We deeply acknowledge the warmth shown by you, and your responsiveness to India’s sensitivities,” she said.

Mattis, backed by the secretary of state Mike Pompeo, publicly urged and lobbied US Congress in open hearings to grant expand the president’s waiver authority under CAATSA to exempt countries like India — and he had named it — that have long been clients of the Russian defence industry.

And he explained his reasons once again Monday.

“India has spent many, many years in its non-aligned status. It’s drawn a lot of weapons from Russia. We have a growing strategic confluence of interests with our country and theirs, the two largest democracies in the world.”

In a press statement on Sitharaman’s meeting with Mattis, the Indian ministry of defence said that discussions were held on the growing partnership between India and the US in the defence sphere.

“Views were also exchanged on a broad range of bilateral and international issues of mutual interest. The Ministers reviewed ongoing initiatives to further strengthen bilateral defense cooperation, as a key pillar of the strategic partnership between India and USA,” it said.

First Published: Dec 04, 2018 09:22 IST