India to proceed with purchase of Russian S-400 units despite possible US sanctions

India to proceed with purchase of Russian S-400 units despite possible US sanctions
India will proceed with the purchase of Russia's S-400 surface-to-air missile units despite possible US sanctions, the country's defense minister has confirmed, citing a “time tested” relationship between Delhi and Moscow.

“In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia's defense cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time tested relationship. We have mentioned that CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act) cannot impact the India-Russia defense cooperation,” Nirmala Sitharaman said at a press conference.

Her reference to the CAATSA relates to a US federal bill that was implemented in 2017, placing sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. It is possible that the Trump administration could punish Delhi for violating the sanctions placed on Moscow, as Washington has already issued warnings.

Sitharaman added that India has received numerous defense assets from Moscow and that such cooperation would continue with the $5.5-billion S-400 deal. Russia is India's largest arms supplier, accounting for 62 percent of arms sales to New Delhi over the past five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Institute.

India’s decision to buy the S-400 anti-aircraft system might constitute a shift in foreign policy, which has seemingly “renewed emphasis on its strategic autonomy,” former Indian ambassador to Turkey and Uzbekistan Melkulangara Bhadrakumar told RT.

“It must be noted that S-400 is an advanced weapon system and it is virtually impossible for India to procure a comparable system from any other country. However, the bottom line is that some discernible shifts are there in the Indian foreign policy lately – one may say, a rethink or a course correction,” Bhadrakumar said.

The move to purchase S-400 is also meant to send a message to the US that no one can press the country into buying or not buying certain military equipment, Aleksey Kupriyanov, senior research fellow at Institute of World Economy and International Relations, believes.

“India strives to maintain a balance in arms purchases, to not buy too much from the US or Russia. S-400 fits perfectly into such scheme, as it allows it to fix the quite recent tilt towards the American weaponry,” Kupriyanov told RT. The analyst believes it is unlikely that the US would slap the country with sanctions, as it would seriously damage bilateral relations.

Meanwhile, India isn't the only country refusing to back down when it comes to the purchase of S-400 units. Turkey is also going ahead with its purchase of the anti-aircraft systems, despite US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert stating that Washington has “serious concerns about Turkey's potential acquisition of the systems.” She said that, as a fellow NATO member, the country should only be using NATO-compatible systems.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Washington's stance last week, telling the House Foreign Relations Committee that the US is making efforts to “keep the Turks in a place where they will never acquire the S-400.”

The S-400 Triumf is Russia's most advanced air-defense hardware. It is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defense, and integrates a multi-function radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, missile launchers, and command posts. It can bring down aircraft at a range of up to 400km.

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