Key U.S. lawmakers bat for CAATSA sanctions waiver for India

India is likely to begin taking delivery of the S-400 in November, potentially activating U.S. sanctions under a 2017 law, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). File   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Key lawmakers continue to voice their support for a sanctions waiver for India for its purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia. India is likely to begin taking delivery of the S-400 in November, potentially activating U.S. sanctions under a 2017 law, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Senate India Caucus Co-Chair John Cornyn and Mike Waltz, a member on the House Armed Services Committee and vice chair of the Congressional India Caucus, were among the lawmakers who have addressed the issue this week. Their comments were made on Wednesday evening at a virtually held event, organised by the U.S. India Business Council and the U.S. India Friendship Council.

Congressman Brad Sherman, a California Democrat and Co-Chair of the Congressional India Caucus, also spoke of the strength of India-U.S. ties.

History of procurement

Mr. Waltz said he cognized New Delhi’s history of procurement (from Russia) and India’s desire to have diversity in its weapons systems, noting that the situation is difficult.

He said the U.S. Congress was working through “what the next steps are” — in terms of dealing with CAATSA in the Indian context and that he did not want a Turkey-type situation.

“So I don't want to get ahead of that. But I’ll tell you what I want to avoid is the situation where we are with Turkey right now,“ he said suggesting that India and the U.S. keep the dialogue open — either at the Congressional level or at the 2+2 level (the next meeting between the Foreign and Defence Ministers will be held in early December in Washington).

Turkey, a NATO ally, was expelled from the American F-35 programme (a consortium to build the aircraft) after it began accepting S-400 shipments in 2019. President Joe Biden said in July Turkey will face further sanctions if it bought major equipment from Moscow.

“I don't think we’re anywhere close to that yet. But I do think we need to find some off-ramps and find some ways to move in a more positive direction,” Mr. Waltz said.

The congressman co-authored, with U.S Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, an op-ed in Foreign Policy earlier this week suggesting that the U.S. enter into a formal alliance with India. Ms. Haley, an Indian American, is considered a possible 2024 GOP candidate for the White House.

Watchful eye on Afghanistan

The op-ed argued that India could help keep “a watchful eye on Afghanistan” and “keep track of China’s southern flank”. The authors also suggested that a formal alliance with India would enable the U.S. to access Afghanistan via India’s Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan.

India has not publicly expressed interest in a formal security alliance with the U.S. or any other country.

Also on Wednesday, Mr. Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said the possibility of sanctions remained “one of the biggest threats” to the bilateral relationship. He pointed out that India had taken “significant steps” to reduce its reliance on Russian military equipment and had shown an interest in purchasing more arms from the U.S. and “working more closely with us based on shared values,” and therefore should not be subject to CAATSA sanctions.

“So I think not waiving these sanctions would achieve nothing, and perhaps derail the hard-earned progress that we’ve made to strengthen our military cooperation,” Mr. Cornyn said.

The Senator, along with his fellow caucus co-chair, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, had written to President Biden on Tuesday highlighting these points and asking him to grant a CAATSA waiver. The authority to issue a waiver — when conditions such as those cited by Mr. Cornyn are fulfilled — rests with the President, as per a law passed in 2018, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 10:46:48 AM |

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