Ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India early next month, Moscow has started deliveries of S-400 air defence systems to India, a senior Russian official confirmed.
This risks the possibility of sanctions from the U.S. under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) which would come up for discussion at the India-U.S. 2+2 ministerial dialogue, also scheduled for early December.
“Russia has started supplying S-400 air defence system to India, the first division will be delivered by the end of 2021,” said Dmitry Shugaev, Director of Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC). The supplies are proceeding on schedule, he added.
First elements of the S-400 system have reached Indian soil, a Russian official said on condition of anonymity, adding that delivery of the first division would be completed by December end.
In October, stating that the delivery was on track, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) V. R. Chaudhari had said the “first regiment should be inducted within this year .”
Mr. Putin is scheduled to visit India in the first week of December for the annual summit and the inaugural India-Russia 2+2 ministerial dialogue is likely to be held a day before or on the day of the summit itself, an official source said. Deals are expected in defence, trade and energy, apart from the focus on regional issues especially the developments in Afghanistan,
On the defence front, which is a major pillar of cooperation, few big ticket pending deals are lined for conclusion which include Ka-226T utility helicopters, Ak-203 assault rifles and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) systems. Some of these could see conclusion during the summit, a defence official said.
India recently made an emergency procurement of the Igla-S systems worth ₹300 crore and signed a deal for off the shelf procurement of 70,000 Ak-103 assault rifles.
The U.S. has so far remained non-committal on a waiver to India under CAATSA, with some officials cautioning New Delhi to move away from the deal while others called for a waiver to India. In this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met a high-power U.S. Congressional delegation, led by Senator John Cornyn, and discussed “issues related to the developments in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.”
$5.43 billion deal
In October 2018, India and Russia signed a $5.43 billion deal for five S-400 regiments. Ahead of the scheduled deliveries, two Indian Air Force (IAF) teams have already been trained on the system by the manufacturer Almaz Antey, in Russia.
Defence trade between India and Russia was $15 billion in the last three years because of several big ticket deals.
The deal saw some initial delays as both sides looked to secure the payments from U.S. sanctions. That was subsequently resolved, as confirmed by Victor Kladov, head of international cooperation and regional policy of Rostec Corporation who told The Hindu in August, “For instance, we protect our banking systems by doing payments in national currencies.”
IAF Chiefs in the past had termed the S-400 as a game changer once inducted and will also partly make up for the dwindling fighter strength of the force especially in the backdrop of growing two-front threat from China and Pakistan.
There are specific defence and national security considerations that led India to conclude the contract for the supply of S-400 systems, outgoing Indian Envoy to Russia D.B. Venkatesh Varma told The Hindu in August. “We will do what we have to do and necessary for India to preserve and protect its national security interests.”