Three Republican US senators said on Friday they filed legislation to exempt India from sanctions for purchasing a Russian S400 missile defense system, citing the importance of working with allies to stand up against China.
The bill, from Senators Ted Cruz, Todd Young and Roger Marshall, would create a 10-year exemption for member countries of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – Australia, Japan and India – from sanctions imposed by Caatsa, a sweeping 2017 law intended to punish countries that did business with, among others, Russia’s military.
The bill added to calls in Congress to waive sanctions for India
Republican Senator John Cornyn and Democratic Senator Mark Warner, in a letter to Biden on Tuesday, called for a waiver on the grounds of national security and broader cooperation.
The US’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) could compel the Biden administration to impose sanctions on India when it takes delivery of the Russian S-400 air defense system at the end of 2021. This move could deal a blow to the relationship, and their Indo-Pacific strategies. But if Indian leaders can acknowledge the US’s ire with Russia, assume greater burden-sharing, and adopt realism in its dealings with DC, it might better position itself for a sanctions waiver.
The CAATSA legislation compels the US to impose secondary sanctions on any entity that does business with the Russian defense-industrial complex. The S-400 delivery to India would constitute such a trigger. Most experts conclude that US sanctions on India would be self-defeating as they would damage defense relations, raise concerns about US unreliability, and harm India’s ability to shape a balance of power in the Indo-Pacific.
The US is counting on India to deter and defend against Chinese military aggression and to share the security burden of upholding a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean. India is counting on US partnership to abet its rise in Asia through defense technologies, market access, and political support. Sanctions would compromise critical US and Indian interests in the Indo-Pacific.
The Biden administration is not unaware of the stakes. It has prioritized China as its pacing challenge and the Indo-Pacific as the key theatre for competition. This should be evident in actions, from the Pentagon’s internal China Task Force to the withdrawal from Afghanistan to the nuclear submarine deal with Australia. Nevertheless, Indian strategists should appreciate the context animating the US sanctions.
Reuters with additional input by GVS