The Indian plans to buy the Russian missile defence system S-400 have been casing tensions in Indo-US relations. The US has warned India that it will impose sanctions if it goes ahead with the purchase of S-400. The US is unhappy with the deal and has issued a warning in January 2021 and again during the US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin’s, visit to India in March 2021. What are the politics of the Indian purchase of S-400? How does it impact India-US relations? What are its implications for India-Russia defence cooperation? These are all important issues that need to be examined.
Lloyd Austin discussed the planned purchase of the S-400 air defence system during his delegation-level talks with the Indian Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, on March 20. He said that “We certainly urge all our allies, our partners to move away from Russian equipment … and avoid any kind of acquisitions that would trigger sanctions on our behalf.” In response to a question of whether the US would sanction India if it went ahead with the deal, he made a vague response saying that the question of sanctions against India is not on the table as India has not taken delivery of the system. He did not elaborate on what will happen when India does receive delivery of some S-400 systems later this year. The sanctions under consideration are under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). It was passed by Congress in 2017 and stipulates imposing sanctions on any country that makes significant purchases of military equipment from Russia, as well as any transactions with Iran or North Korea.