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2+2 talks: S-400 becomes sticking point between India and US

2+2 talks
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News Analysis |

India is expected to convey to the US during the upcoming ‘two-plus-two’ talks that it is going ahead with the Rs 40,000 crore deal with Russia to procure a batch of S-400 Triumf air defense missile systems, notwithstanding the American sanctions on military transactions with Moscow, official sources said Sunday.

They said India is likely to seek a waiver from the Trump administration for the mega-deal, citing its requirement for the missile system in the wake of the evolving regional security architecture as well as considering its close defense ties with Russia. “India has almost concluded the S-400 missile deal with Russia, and we are going ahead with it. Our position on the issue will be conveyed to the US,” said a high-level official source.

The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The missile system, manufactured by Almaz-Antey, has been in service in Russia since 2007.

The US has imposed military sanctions against Russia under the stringent CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) law for its annexation of Crimea as well as alleged meddling in the American presidential election in 2016. CAATSA mandates the Donald Trump administration to punish entities and countries engaging in a significant transaction with the defense or intelligence establishment of Russia. Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s senior official handling issues relating to Asia, said Thursday that the US cannot guarantee that India will be exempted from sanctions if it purchases weapons and defense systems from Russia.

The US has been indicating that it does not want India to finalize the deal with Russia. A new US defense legislation authorizes President Donald Trump to exempt countries from the military sanctions. The first edition of the much-awaited 2+2 dialogue on strategic affairs between the US and India will take place here on September 6 during which a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interests will be discussed.

Read more: Hotline between India and USA will continue under Trump

Under the new framework finalized last year, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will hold talks with Secretary of State Mike R Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis from the US. The sources said India will push for a waiver from the US for the missile deal with Russia, as the air defense system was critical for its security preparedness. They said there was a possibility that both Russia and India are likely to announce the deal before the annual summit between prime minister Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in October.

There has been mounting concerns in India over the US sanctions against Russian defense majors including Rosoboronexport as billions of dollars of military purchases may be impacted because of the punitive measure. India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defense mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border.

Pakistan will have to face tougher challenges if the US and India choose to actively pursue their strategic objectives in South Asia.

S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defense system. China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 to procure the lethal missile system and Moscow has already started delivery of an unknown number of the S-400 missile systems to Beijing. The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The missile system, manufactured by Almaz-Antey, has been in service in Russia since 2007.

According to a key South Block official, several important issues are to be taken up during the 6th September 2018 2+2 meeting. First, armed forces of both India and the US are working on a bilateral amphibious exercise, engaging all three services (army, navy and air force) in the near future. At present, India does such military exercise, involving all three wings of armed forces, only with Russia.

Read more: India-US two on teo dialogue preceded by military and commercial agreements

Secondly, after Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), other two ‘foundational’ agreements the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which have been pending for long due to their “intrusive” element, are also expected to be on the table for further discussion.

The USA is increasingly trying to woo India in order to stave off the rise of China. As the global power shifts to Asia, the US’ Asia pivot strategy aims to maintain a dominant strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific by reinforcing its long-held supremacy in the region. India is seen as a lynchpin of this pivot strategy which is quite clear from the US Department of defense guideline and also from various official statements.

Read more: India doesn’t need a working relationship with US Central Command

Keeping in view the ever-changing geopolitical and geostrategic realities, Pakistan has to re-evaluate and reformulate its foreign policy as well as security policy in the region. Obviously, it can no longer afford to stay isolated in the region. Pakistan will have to face tougher challenges if the US and India choose to actively pursue their strategic objectives in South Asia.


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