“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”
– George Eliot
Ignoring the threat of US sanctions, India has signed a multi-billion deal with Russia for sourcing S-400 long-range missile systems from the country. 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 visit of Putin is quite significant from the point of preparation for a strong defence system and establishment. It would have lasting implications on India-U.S. bilateral relationship. The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The signing of the agreement for the purchase of missile defence system between India and Russia is a historical event, but more than that Russia taking the initiative to iron out differences between India and Pakistan would prove to be a major step towards changing the geopolitical situation in South East Asia, which is one of significant aspects of the agreement. The both sides welcomed the conclusion of the contract for the supply of the surface to air missile system to India, a joint press statement following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was on a two-day visit to India to attend the nineteenth Indo-Russia annual bilateral summit last week. Putin’s trip comes at a time when Russia and China are strengthening ties with each other.
In a guarded reaction, the US said that its intent to slap sanctions against Russia was not aimed at imposing damage to the military capabilities of its “allies or partners,” shortly after India concluded the deal. In the prevailing situation the US is a worried country. Donald Trump is trying to hurt Russia as much as possible and has threatened sanctions against countries buying Russian defence kit. In fact, the US earlier had warned India about the implications of the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Sanctions Act) legislation if it went ahead and made the deal. Under the CAATSA legislation, any country dealing with countries on which the US has imposed economic sanctions will be liable to face punitive actions from the US. And Modi government’s move to purchase S-400 missile system has not gone down well with the Trump administration. The US is now contemplating to slap sanctions against India. The US had, only in the recent weeks, slapped financial sanctions on the Chinese military for its deal with Russia for Sukho Su-35 fighter jets. No one can undermine the importance of cordial India-Russia relations. Russia has been a constant support for India, which imported much of its military hardware from Russia. Yet, one should not forget that Moscow had refused to support Delhi’s demands in Goa that the BRICS Summit 2016 declaration mentions ‘state-sponsored’ terrorism, which would have implicated Islamabad.
The apparent reason for Trump administration hardening its stance against India may have the connection with the purchase, but it is Putin’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan and try to ease tensions between the two countries that has irked the Trump administration. There is no denying that the US has been extending verbal support to India in its fight against terrorism, but it has not adopted a hard posture against Pakistan on this issue. The big question now is: Has the time come for the Modi government to take a relook at its US policy?