Taking a strong stand against the threat of financial sanctions for purchasing Russian weapons, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that India was going ahead with the purchase of the S-400 air defence system deal and is not bound by internal laws of the US.
She said that the $5.5 billion deal has almost reached final stage and added that it has been conveyed to the US that India has an enduring relationship with Russia and negotiations on the deal has been on for years.
“CAATSA (sanctions law) is not a UN act, it’s a US act….we have spoken on the S-400 for years, not just today,” the minister said at a media interaction in New Delhi on Friday. She added that the US has been assured that there were no technical issues it needed to be concerned about because of the purchase.
Sitharaman also indicated that the COMCASA information sharing pact being negotiated with the US may not be signed immediately, while clarifying that the 2+2 dialogue with Washington has been rescheduled for September.
“Don’t think the final position (on Comcasa) has been decided at all,” the minister said, dismissing speculation that the 2+2 dialogue was postponed for any reasons other than scheduling issues.
India has also asked the US for a binding assurance in the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (Comcasa) to ensure that the secured communication equipment covered by the pact are available to India and kept operational at all times.
In rare official comments on the threat of US sanctions — ET had reported that financial sanctions by the US have hit India’s arms trade with Russia hard and payments for weapons and equipment worth over $2 billion were stuck after banks refused to make remittances to Moscow fearing penal action — the minister said that India has conveyed to the US that the ties with Russia were decades old and that New Delhi viewed CAATSA as an internal US issue.
“There is some speculation that the 2+2 postponement was due to trade or other issues. That is not true. It was only because US officials were going to attend to the North Korean talks,” she said. While she did not comment on whether the S 400 deal would be signed during Russian president Vladimir Putin’s October visit, the minister said that once inked, it could take up to four years to execute and take deliveries. The system is considered vital for India’s air defence shield on Pakistan and China fronts. The minister also confirmed that India has conveyed to Russia that it will not participate in further development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft programme but will revisit it once the project is ready.
SOURCE : ET