India signed a $5.43 billion deal with Russia in 2018 for the delivery of five columns of S-400 missiles by 2023. The deal hasn’t gone down well with Washington, which has already sanctioned its NATO ally Turkey over the purchase of the Russian anti-aircraft systems.
US Senators and India Caucus Co-Chairs Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) have called upon President Joe Biden to waive possible sanctions against India over the purchase of Russian S-400 “Triumf” anti-aircraft missile systems.
“We are concerned that the upcoming transfer of these systems will trigger sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)…”, Warner and Cornyn said in a letter on Tuesday.
The senators warned that “application of CAATSA sanctions” on India could have a “deleterious effect on the strategic partnership” between the two countries.
“As such, we strongly encourage you to grant a CAATSA waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system”, the communication from the senators read.
“In cases where granting a waiver would advance the national security interests of the US, this waiver authority, as written into the law by Congress, allows the president additional discretion in applying sanctions”, it added.
The US senators reminded President Biden that the 2019 National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) allows the president to issue a waiver if doing so is in the “national interest” of the country.
The American politicians argued that a CAATSA waiver for India was “appropriate for several reasons”. It pointed out that India had taken “significant steps” to reduce its reliance on Russian arms imports in recent years, while at the time same time buying more American arms than before.
The letter said that Russian arms exports to India had declined by 53 percent between 2016 and 2020 as compared to the previous five years, while New Delhi also bought $3.4 billion worth of US armaments during that period.
Spelling out their second reason for demanding a waiver for New Delhi, the senators cautioned that such a move could “derail deepening” bilateral cooperation in the spheres of vaccines, energy strategy as well as defence cooperation.
“Furthermore, sanctions have the potential to embolden critics within India who warn that the United States will not be a consistent and reliable partner for cooperation…”, the letter read.
The letter from Warner and Cornyn comes just weeks after US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman warned during a visit to India that buying the Russian S-400 missile system was “dangerous” and in “nobody’s interest”.
“We want to be very thoughtful about the ways ahead, and discussions between our countries try to solve problems, and I hope we will be able to in this instance as well”, Sherman said at an event during her visit to the South Asian country this month.
Despite being warned by successive US administrations about the looming CAATSA sanctions if it went ahead with the S-400 deal, India has remained committed to the transaction.
India’s outgoing Ambassador to Russia D.B. Venkatesh Varma said in an interview with the Russian daily Kommersant on 16 October that New Delhi would receive its first batch of S-400 systems this year.