NATIONAL

U.S. sanctions Act no hurdle: Russian envoy

Russian Ambassador Nikolai Kudashev speaking to The Hindu in New Delhi.V.V. Krishnan  

India and Russia’s defence deals won’t be affected by the United States’ threat of sanctions, and several more defence deals are expected to be completed after the S-400 Triumf missile deal concluded on Friday, Russian Ambassador Nikolai Kudashev said.

Mr. Kudashev also advocated that India sign a military logistics agreement with Russia.

Trump threat

The Ambassador’s remarks come just hours after U.S. President Trump’s words, seen as a sign of possible punitive action, that “India is going to find out…Sooner than you think,” about U.S. sanctions as a result of the $5.43 billion missile deal signed during the Putin-Modi summit in Delhi.

“I can only invoke the statements of the Indian leaders [where they said UN sanctions, not U.S. sanctions matter],” Mr. Kudashev told a select group of journalists, referring to Washington’s Countering American Adversaries Through Sanction’s Act (CAATSA) that was signed last year to pass strictures on countries doing energy and defence trade deals with Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Asked by The Hindu whether the announcement of the S-400 agreement had been deliberately muted, and the other defence deals put off due to the CAATSA sanctions, Mr. Kudashev said on the contrary, the deal had been fast tracked in the last few months.

“The [S-400] is the largest deal in the history of our bilateral military and technical cooperation of 60 years….It was negotiated very fast, so don’t believe those who speak of protracted negotiations. In fact it was the speediest negotiation we have had so far,” he explained, calling Mr. Putin’s visit to Delhi as “result oriented and strategic”.

“India is too big, too large to depend on somebody or to be afraid of anybody,” Mr. Kudashev added, detailing more defence deals to be announced by the two countries in the next “two-three months”. These include a production licence for Kalashnikov AK-103 Assault Rifles, and four stealth frigates.

The deals could also attract sanctions from the U.S., as the only exceptions the White House has announced it will make so far are for “things such as spare parts for previously purchased equipment”, not new purchases.

Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin are expected to meet next at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires on November 30, after which the pending defence agreements may be announced during an expected visit to Delhi by the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, it is learnt.

By then, government officials hope the U.S. will have clarified its intentions of sanctions on India for the Russian purchases.

While the Modi government has repeated its stand on disregarding unilateral sanctions, officials including National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale have met with their American counterparts in the past few months to request a waiver to the CAATSA sanctions on the plea that India and Russia share an old and deep defence relationship that cannot be reduced easily.

The S-400 is the largest deal in the history of our bilateral military cooperation of 60 years