Russian President Vladimir Putin is in New Delhi on a two-day visit to participate in the 19th India-Russia annual bilateral summit. One of the major highlights of the Russian leader's visit to India and the talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the signing of a deal under which India will purchase a most modern air defence system from Russia. As part of the deal, India will buy five advanced S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile squadrons from Russia for $5.43 billion (Rs 40,000 crore). The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The two leaders also signed eight pacts in various fields including railways, defence, nuclear energy, space, and economy. "Our special strategic partnership will achieve new heights... Russia has always been a part of India's growth story," Modi said in a joint press meet after the deals were signed. The United States had cautioned India ahead of Putin's visit that any major defence deal with Russia will attract provisions of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). Under this legislation, any country dealing with countries on which the US has imposed economic sanctions will be liable to face punitive actions from the US. The US and the European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The relations between Russia and the US have been tense also on the question of Syria and Russia's interference in the US Presidential election. Russia and India are associated in many important groups such as SCO, BRICS, G-20, and ASEAN and together they play an important role in regional and international cooperations.
The importance of vibrant India-Russia relations can never be undermined. During the cold war era, Russia has been a constant support for India, which imported much of its military hardware from Russia. Russian support at the UN every time India was in trouble is still remembered in India with gratitude. Russia's support in setting up heavy industries in India's public sector has been crucial for the industrialisation of the country after Independence. In recent decades, however, the two countries have not made much progress in scaling up the relations, mainly because of the disintegration of USSR and the emergence of a new world order. India, in its bid to attract FDI into the country had to redraw its priorities and find new friends. The rise of China as a major economic power in India's neighbourhood also had its influence on India, which sought to develop a closer relationship with the US. However, the business relationship between Russia and India continued unabated. Besides military hardware, Russia is also a major oil supplier to India. The two countries also cooperate with each other and keep in touch on important defence and security-related matters. Russia has been a key supplier of cutting-edge technologies to India in the defence sector, which no other country in the world would like to offer to India.
As India has entered into an agreement to procure a highly advanced air defence system from Russia for over $5 billion, the US has started warning India over the deal. The US has put similar pressure on India for its oil buys from Iran, which has once again come under the US sanctions after Donald Trump administration walked out of the US-Iran nuclear deal. The CAATSA provides for US sanctions against a country that chooses to have a business transaction above a certain limit with a country that faces the US sanctions. Now, referring to provisions in CAATSA, the US has warned India against buying oil and military hardware from the two countries facing US sanctions. Both Russia and Iran are trying to deal with the US sanctions in their own way. The two countries are fighting the US forces in Syria where the US has launched an armed offensive against the government forces of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. The US government under President Donald Trump has been following a policy of trade protection under which it has hiked import duty on aluminium and steel from major supplies in China and the European Union. India also faces similar action on its exports to the US. Apart from aggressive trade protection policies, the US has started asking countries to avoid doing business with Russia and China. India's decision to go ahead with the S-400 missile deals with Russia shows that India will not bow before the US when it comes to protecting national interest. India needs S-400 missiles urgently for its security needs and the only country that can provide it is Russia. Now, nothing should stop India from procuring these weapons.