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US warns India against buying Russian missile defence system

US warns India against buying Russian missile defence system

Washington: If India went ahead with its decision to buy the long-range S-400 missile defense system from Russia, it will have serious implications on Indo-US defence ties, the Trump administration has warned.

The S-400 is known as Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system. China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 to procure the lethal missile system.

India and Russia signed a USD 5 billion S-400 air defence system deal in October last year. A senior State Department Official told a group of reporters on Thursday that New Delhi's decision to buy S-400 air defence system from Moscow was significant, disagreeing with the view that it "isn't a big deal".

The official disagreed with the view that India's buying of S-400 system from Russia might not have an impact as long as it increases its military purchase from the US.

"I disagree. The S-400 is significant because of CAATSA sanctions. It's also significant because of what it precludes, in terms of future high-tech cooperation," the official said.

The S-400 missile defence system deal could result in US sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Russia.

The official said if India went ahead with its decision to buy the S-400 missile defence system from Russia, it will have serious implications on the defence ties.

The Trump administration has been very clear that the acquisition of advanced Russian technology sends the wrong message to Russia at a time when it continues its aggressions, the official said.

"Those concerns we hold high," said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"You can look at the very serious conversation that's taking place with our NATO partner Turkey and the same concerns will apply should India proceed with an S-400 purchase," the official said.

"We don't commingle highest technology systems. There are threats posed by the purchase of an S-400. So that conversation you're seeing played out in Turkey right now," the official said, asserting that those same concerns would apply to India as well.

Noting that there is no automatic waivers under the CAATSA legislation, the official said that there is a provision that allows for presidential determination. "Every case would have to be looked at individually. But I think the broader issue is where are India's military relations headed? With whom is it going to share the highest technology and that operating environment? because certain choices preclude other choices," the official noted.

"As we have discussions about a combat aircraft sales and other advanced systems, the decisions that India makes with regard to S-400 will have an impact on those conversations," the senior State Department official said. India has been diversifying its weapons supply over the years. The US estimates that probably 60 to 70 per cent of its hardware is of Soviet/Russia origin. There is still a significant dependence on Russia. But the jump in India's purchase of military equipment from the US from zero to USD 18 billion is significant, the official said. PTI

Lalit K Jha

Lalit K Jha

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