Concerns Over Delivery Of S-400
With Russia starting the delivery of the S-400 missile system to India this week, the Biden Administration is in a bind. Will Washington slap punitive sanctions against India and risk offending a valuable partner assiduously cultivated by successive US administrations to balance China's growing political, economic and military clout across Asia ? This is at the heart of the current controversy over India's decision to buy the Russian made missile system.
The US had pressed India to call off the deal arguing, among other things, the Russian system will impede ongoing efforts to increase interoperability between India and US militaries and had offered The Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) and Patriot Advance Capability (PAC) system instead. A 2017 US law that seeks to punish Russia - Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) - requires the administration to impose secondary sanctions on countries that make substantial defence purchases from Russia. China was the first country sanctioned under this law in 2018, followed by Turkey, a NATO ally, in 2020, both over S-400.
But sanctions against India is something else, more so with the current state of US-China ties. Though temperatures are expected to come down after Monday's virtual Summit between Biden like Trump before him sees China as a rising power ready to challenge US supremacy in a decade or so. Ironically, the US wants India to play the same rule that China did for the Soviet Union.
However, the covid-19 pandemic, delayed payments and a possibility of India being sanctioned by the US under CAATSA pushed the delivery by a year. Social media and TV news channels have exploded in excitement about the S-400 missile system and experts like former chief Marshal Dhanoa have referred to them as 'game-changers'. Thanks to the fact that democrats and Republicans are far better ties with India, lawmakers on both sides of the aisles are working towards avoiding the sanctions. Whether the finally succeed is not certain but the Caucus is actively hoping to ensure that an exception be made for India.