New Delhi, Oct 4: The United States is perturbed by the fact that India and Russia could go ahead with the much-anticipated deal on the S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft missile system. It has threatened sanctions if New Delhi goes ahead with the deal and all eyes are now on how Prime Minister Narendra Modi balances things and keeps both the relations without a lasting damage.
But why is the US worried over this deal? The Cold War is long over and Russia is no more a superpower capable of inflicting a damage that can unsettle the US - the only superpower the world sees today. But yet, Washington is not at all comfortable with the idea of India, with which it has grown closer over last almost two decades, finalising a defence deal with Russia.
Here are a few reasons why the US is not okay with the India-Russia deal:
US doesn't want to lose its military lead
First, the S-400 Triumf's 'game-changing' capacity which is being acknowledged across the world. Russia's anti-aircraft missile systems have always worried the West, thanks to the shooting down of a couple of American reconnaissance planes in the early 1960s by the then S-75 system after they were found overflying the former Soviet Union and Cuba in 1960 and 1962, respectively. The Russian anti-aircraft missile system hence has a reputation of being effective and today, when a number of powers ranging from India, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Pakistan have expressed interest to buy them, the US is understandably worried. With a vast tracking range and the capacity to destroy aerial targets at a high speed, the S-400 Triumf system will be any force's asset and it would reduce the military lead that the US has over some of its enemies worldwide.
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That the US's establishment is worried over the worldwide market potential of the Russian missile defence system became evident when the chairman of the US Arms Service Committee Mac Thornberry told the press in May, as quoted by The Hindu: "There is a lot of concern in the US, in both the administration and the Congress, over the S-400 system. There is concern that any country and not just India that acquires that system will complicate our ability to work towards interoperability together."
But why is US worried over friend India procuring the Russian military equipment?
It's understandable when the US condemns its enemies vying for the S-400 but why is it doing the same when India, its friend, is doing the same? The reason is not too difficult to guess. Russia's military hardware is something that doesn't get outdated easily (India is still using the old MiG-21s) and Washington is worried that if India goes forward to procure the S-400 system, then its missile defence will remain dependent on it for a long time to come. This will pose a challenge to Washington's plans to keep India closer to its own defence and strategic network.
The US is also worried that if India settles the deal with Russia, the S-400's market will open fast as other nations will follow the example set by India, one of the biggest buyers of military hardware in the world and is also known to finalise deals after a long trial. The growing market for the S-400 Triumf is something the Americans will want the least.
Pakistan is the other factor why US is worried
Another reason for the US's objection to the India-Russia deal is the impact it might have on South Asian politics. Seeing India acquiring the developed hardware, Pakistan will not sit idle and also aspire to acquire its own assets and this could see more tension rising in an already volatile region. And if Pakistan also turns to Russia and China for getting the latest military hardware, ignoring the US, it will not only be a loss of face for Washington but also a worry that the race to gain strategic advantage in South Asia could do without it in the future.