Indian officials optimistic of US waiver on India-Russia defence deal

NEW DELHI, June 25: On the eve of US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo’s India visit beginning Tuesday late evening, sources remain optimistic that there could be a ‘US waiver’ vis-a-vis Indian deal with the Russians for the defence system.
Sources said here that the long standing defence relations between India and Russia cannot be wished away.
“The S-400 is an issue that has been discussed. We know that this matter is of some concern to the US. I cannot deal much about the US position on the issue, but at the same time, India has a long standing defence relationship with Russia which we cannot wish away,” a source said here.
A US State Department official said last week that the US “urged all of our allies and partners, India included, to forego transactions with Russia that risk triggering the CAATSA sanctions”.
But Indian source said: “The US legislation is very clear as to what circumstances a waiver can be given by the US administration. There are various pros and cons …which we feel India meets. If you look at the issue from legal point of view, our understanding and assessment is that India fulfills those requirement”.
The US administration thus can have ‘enough flexibility’ to give waiver in favour of India.
Hardly a week since Modi government took over for second term, a top US functionary Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper arrived India on June 6 and reportedly interacted with the Indian side on defence partnership and also take steps for “furthering opportunities for American industry” and push for $15 billion fighter jet deal.
The US-India bilateral defence trade has risen from virtually zero in 2008 to $15 billion. From Indian point of view, it has been given to understand that the Indian Air Force is in urgent need of upgraded fighter jets but the Modi Government had laid emphasis earlier to ‘procure’ the jets under its ‘Make in India’ initiative.
The Donald Trump administration is hopeful that the deal will prove to be “favourable” for the US.
US envoy to India Ken Juster also welcomed R Clarke Cooper to US Embassy in New Delhi earlier this month and said in a Twitter missive. “Good discussion on efforts to strengthen US-India defense ties and further support India’s role as a Major Defense Partner,” Ambassador Juster wrote.
Indian officials say S-400 deal has been discussed with Russians almost for a decade now.
Sources sought to clarify that the US is “well aware” of the circumstances those have compelled to go for 6-400 missile defence system and “we have explained the rationale very well”.
“The US is in fact well appreciative of Indian requirement….,” the source said.
The S-400 Triumf long-range missile can hit targets up to 400 km, making it one of the world’s most lethal surface-to-air missiles.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met with Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and other officials an reviewed defence acquisition matters. (UNI)