Despite warnings of sanctions from the United States, a weapons deal worth $5 billion was signed between India during the visit of Russian president Vladimir Putin to India mfor the annual bilateral meeting which was aimed at discussions cooperation opportunities in the areas of energy, security and defense.
This deal for purchasing by India of the Russian-built S-400 Triumf, a long-range surface-to-air missile system that has the capacity to destroy both cruise and ballistic missiles is being seen as India’s attempt to respond to China’s growing domination of the Indian Ocean.
The deal was being discussed between the countries since 2015.
According Richard Rossow, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a specialist in U.S.-India relations, the finalization of the deal is an indication that the Indian government is “trying to take steps to counter China”. He opined that such high powered defense systems is being desired by India as it wants to secure itself in the Indian Ocean where China has been increasing its influence in recent years which has made the region sensitive. .
There has been a competition between the two Asian giants to set up stronger military bases and exert their economic might in the waters surrounding countries ranging from Tanzania to Sri Lanka. The Indian government has struck deal for setting up naval bases in Indonesia, Tran, Oman and the Seychelles ever since China set up its first foreign military base in Djibouti last year.
“The S-400 range would enable India to track aircraft beyond its borders, making it a valuable asset as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force extends its training and deployments closer to Indian territory,” said Zoe Stanley Lockman, an associate research fellow specializing in defense at Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University.
The interest of India for the missile defense system has some other reasons too.
“China is certainly a motivating factor — not only because of Chinese assertiveness in the Indian Ocean, but also because Beijing supplies about 70 percent of the weapons imported by Pakistan,” said Lockman.
“The S-400 Triumf is far superior to the Chinese-supplied Pakistani surface-to-air missile defense systems,” Lockman said, adding that acquisition of the S-400 would be a way for India to counter Pakistan’s advances in nuclear technology.”
Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of the nuclear and space policy initiative at the Observer Research Foundation believes that one of the factors could also be the close relations between Russia and China.
China had earlier been the first purchaser of Russia’s S-400 and Su-35 fighter jet along with a wide range of Russian submarines.
Rajagopalan said in a Thursday note that the defense purchases by China indicate a change in the security dynamics between China and Russia and those had also put at risk India’s security. “Beijing for a long time was not given access to the best and most modern Russian technology and there was no technology transfer,” she pointed out.
But there is a risk of India facing US sanctions because of the Russian arms deal.
A U.S. law called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that was enacted by President Donald Trump last year could form the basis for sanctions against India as it prevents any country from doing any business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors. The act was used by the US last month to impose sanctions against Russia for the second largest economy purchasing of Russian weapons.
However there can be an exemption from the sanctions for India.
“The ability to give waivers was widened by Congress, specifically with India in mind,” Rossow said: “The Trump administration made a pitch on a number of occasions to (Capitol) Hill, trying to make sure there was a little bit more space to offer waivers to countries and India was often named in that.”
(Adapted from CNBC.com)