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25 Oct, 2018 09:17

US won’t sanction India over S-400 deal with Russia… just buy American F-16s – reports

US won’t sanction India over S-400 deal with Russia… just buy American F-16s – reports

Washington has “informally conveyed” to India that it may avoid US sanctions for buying Russian S-400 missile systems, reports say. But that comes with a term, namely that New Delhi should purchase American F-16 fighter jets.

The US baited India with a respective offer in early October, Indian Express reports, citing US officials. The move came shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin signed a $5.4 billion deal on the purchase of five Russian S-400 systems.

The decision to boost its own military with Russian arms did not go down well with Washington, which threatened India with sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). But should New Delhi greenlight the purchase of F-16 jets, it could get a waiver.

Earlier, the Indian Air Force did issue an RFI (request for information) for buying 114 fighters in a competitive bidding process, with F-16s and F-18s among the considered options. But the Indian authorities have so far refused to give any guarantees to Washington that they will cash out on American jets, the paper wrote.

The Indian military is apparently skeptical about flying the F-16s as they are already used by their archrivals in neighboring Pakistan. The American warplanes would also be incompatible with locally made Brahmos missiles, which India developed jointly with Russia.

These concerns aside, Donald Trump would need a very good deal with Delhi in order for the sanctions wavier to even happen as there is “support on both sides of the aisle” for “strong action against Russia,” undisclosed US State Department officials told the IE.

According to them, there are “no blanket waivers that will be issued for any one country.” Avoiding US sanctions “would require, among other things, countries to significantly reduce their reliance on Russian arms.”

CAATSA was introduced to sanction those, who do business with Russia’s defense sector, in order to “prevent revenue from flowing to the Russian government,” the officials said.

Now India apparently has a choice: it either has to reduce its reliance on Russian arms or cooperate with the US on other issues paramount to American national interests in order to receive the wavier if it decides that it needs one.

According to CAATSA, sanctions against India will be introduced as soon as Delhi makes a payment for the S-400 air-defense systems to Russia, which is expected to happen by the end of the current financial year.

Last week, Trump said that New Delhi “is going to find out” the answer “sooner than you think” about the severity of the possible restrictions against it.

But India has been reluctant to cave in to the US pressure, with Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat saying earlier that despite the possibility of sanctions, “we follow an independent policy.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Modi said that his government was taking “big and bold” decisions to defend the country and vowed that “whosoever poses a threat to Indian sovereignty will be answered with double the force.”

Delhi has wide-ranging plans of military cooperation with Moscow as India is reportedly eyeing the purchase of Russian T-14 Armata tanks and guided-missile frigates. The country also mulls developing submarines and next-generation fighter jets together with their Russian partners.

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