There is no guarantee for India that the United States government will exempt it from sanctions if it purchases weapons and defence systems from Russia, a top Pentagon official said.
Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, said there was an “impression that we are going to completely protect the India relationship, insulate India from any fallout from this legislation no matter what they do.” “I would say that is a bit misleading. We would still have very significant concerns if India pursued major new platforms and systems (from Russia),” Schriver said at a think tank event.
It would be possible for U.S. President Donald Trump to grant waivers according to a new U.S. defence bill. The bill gives him the authority to exempt certain countries from the sweeping sanctions that Washington has imposed on Moscow under the CAATSA bill. U.S. lawmakers have targeted Russia's defence and energy business, through the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which applies secondary sanctions to countries engaging in business with Moscow in these fields.
India is in the final stages of acquiring S-400 long-range surface to air missile systems from Russia, a deal worth USD 6 billion. The agreement is expected to be signed by Russia later this year. The purchase of the S-400 system are the latest in a long series of Indian defence purchases, that India has done from Russia as part of their defence relationship.
Schriver’s statements come just a week before New Delhi is set to host a 2+2 dialogue between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary James Mattis and their Indian counterparts Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman.
One of the proponents of granting a waiver to India is Defence Secretary James Mattis. Mattis had written a letter to Congress prior to the passing of this bill and stated that the waiver would not benefit Russia but would help the U.S. to have security relationships with the countries it wants to. But, Schriver said that Trump having the ability to apply these waivers to India did not automatically mean he would.
“I can’t sit here and tell you that they would be exempt, that we would use that waiver, that will be the decision of the president if he is faced with a major new platform and capability that India has acquired from Russia,” he added.
India has increasingly ramped up its defence and strategic partnership with the U.S. but Russia remains India’s top defence supplier.