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S-400 deal a setback for US efforts to isolate Russia: Stephen Tankel


New Delhi, Oct 10: India and Russia recently inked the 5 billion US dollar deal to procure Moscow's most advance air defence system, the S-400 Triumf.

Stephen Tankel, an assistant professor at American University

The meeting between Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and Russian President, Vladimir Putin was a closely watched one in the backdrop of the United States threatening to impose sanctions against those nations buying Russian equipment.

'Acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft, S-400 missiles will enhance the power of Air Force'

The visit by Putin has reinforced Indo-Russia ties says Stephen Tankel, an assistant professor at American University and was a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment in the South Asia Program.

Tankel tells OneIndia that the visit and especially the agreement on the S-400 missile deal, reinforced India-Russia ties amid New Delhi's growing strategic relationship with the United States.

The deal is real, but expected, setback for US efforts to isolate Russia. It also comes amid heightened US-India tensions over trade, which, like the threatened sanctions, are another self-inflicted wound by the Trump administration, Tankel also said.

He further added that the sanctions only come into place once India pays for Russian arms, which means there is time for Washington and New Delhi to find some sort of face-saving way forward.

Deputy Director of the Asia Programme and South Asia senior associate, The Wilson Centre, Michael Kugelman tells OneIndia that the visit by Putin is not a game changer, but marks an important milestone. The deals that emerged from the summit will cement and amplify the continued strength of the India-Russia relations even as the US-India relations continues to grow as the US-Russia relationship continues to plummet.

Washington understands that New Delhi is a longstanding friend of Moscow's and that there will naturally be plenty of high-level exchanges between the two.

However, the headliner deal from the visit, the S400 package, will pose a big test for US-India relations. If Washington shrugs off the deal and just lets it go, and doesn't punish New Delhi, then that will be an indication that the US is willing to make exceptions for its best friends, he says.

How S-400 Triumph will help India repulse air attacks by China, Pakistan

But if Washington vows to sanction New Delhi, then the US commitment to US-India partnership and its genuine willingness to take this partnership to a new level could understandably come into question in New Delhi, Kugelam adds.

Given the importance that the US places in US-India ties, I can't imagine that the White House, despite its unpredictability and volatility, would take the drastic step of punishing India. A waiver could be in the offing, Kugelam says.

He further adds that the S400 deal won't go down well at all in Islamabad or Beijing. For India's two main rivals, this is an indication of New Delhi's ability to substantively strength its defense capacities.

That said, at the end of the day, Beijing won't be overly bothered, given that its military capacities are considerably superior to India's. However, for Islamabad, which knows full well that it can't come close to matching India's defense capacities, the concern will be deeper.

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