New Delhi, Oct 5: India and Russia signed the 5 billion US dollar S-400 air defence system deal during the annual bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The deal came in the wake of the US urging its allies to forgo transactions with Russia, warning that the S-400 missile defence system that India intended to buy was a focus area for it to implement punitive sanctions against a nation undertaking significant business deals with the Russians.
In September National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval had visited the United States and held a string of meetings with several officials including his counterpart John Bolton. In focus was the deal with Russia and India made out its case for the purchase of the Russian made S-400 missile systems.
At the meeting Doval pointed out the need for this deal. He said that the integrity of the American military platforms in service with the Indian Air Force would not be compromised if India went ahead with the Russian deal. He also cited the 70 year history of military hardware acquisitions from Russia and pointed out that nearly 64 per cent of the military inventory in India is from Russia.
Doval was tasked with convincing the trump administration that the S-400 deal does merit a US presidential waiver from the provisions of the Countering America's Adversaries Through the Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The American lawmakers however have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver. Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman had said that, India has maintained its sovereignty as regards to its relationship with countries. We shall maintain it in all earnestness, she also said.
A waiver from the US President Donald Trump is essential. US defence contactors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Sirkorsky who supply critical equipment to India the C-17, C-130 J transport aircraft, Apache and Chinook helicopters, will come under sanctions in the absence of a waiver.
Deputy Director of the Asia Programme and South Asia senior associate, The Wilson Centre, Michael Kugelman tells OneIndia that Putin visit itself will not affect US-India ties in a big way. 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.
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.
Kugelman feels that the visit by Putin is not a game changer, but marks an important milestone. The deals emerging from the visit 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.