NEW DELHI ― India and Russia have pledged to jointly create a plan to resolve U.S. sanctions on Russia that is hampering defense deals between New Delhi and Moscow.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to formulate the plan during a May 21 informal summit in the Russian city Sochi.
The U.S. law, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, is negatively affecting defense business with Russia, according to an official with the Indian Ministry of Defence, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“It is an extremely complex issue and has direct consequences on defense supplies from Russia, but Indian government will ensure that [defense] ties are not with Moscow,” the official said.
Notably mum about the impact of CAATSA on Russian defense deals, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs released a statement May 21 saying: “The two leaders agreed that the special and privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia is an important factor for global peace and stability. The two leaders also reiterated the significance of longstanding partnership in the military, security and nuclear energy fields and welcomed the ongoing cooperation in these areas.“
Russia and India maintain a high strategic level of partnership with close cooperation between the two countries defense ministries, Putin said. “Our Defence Ministries maintain very close contacts and cooperation. It speaks about a very high strategic level of our partnership,” he said, according to TASS news agency.
The U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs said Friday in Washington that U.S. allies should consider the law, under which any significant purchase of military equipment from Moscow would attract American sanctions.
“CAATSA is a feature, and we need to take it seriously. The (Trump) administration is always bound by U.S. law. This is a U.S. law. I’m hoping that not just India, but all of the partners that we engage with will understand that we will have to evaluate any potential large defense purchase from Russia seriously because that’s what the law demands of us,” Tina Kaidanow told reporters.
Earlier this month, Modi dispatched top Indian officials to Moscow to find solution to the U.S. sanctions on Russian defense companies that are doing business in India.
Nearly 65 percent of Indian weaponry is of Russian origin, an Indian MoD official noted, and so sanctions could impact the supply of spare parts.
Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited Moscow in April to speed up the procurement of new weapons worth more than $10 billion.
India’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale also held talks with top Russian officials, including national security adviser Nikolai Pathrushev and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on May 10.
Another Indian MoD official said the government will continue to pursue new defense deals will Russia, noting that price negotiations are nearly over for the purchase of 5 Russian-made S-400 air-defense systems at a cost of $5 billion, with a deal expected to be signed in the next four months.
India is working out ways to keep this deal out of CAATSA, he added.
“In is also working out mechanism to buy spares and materials for past contracted Russian weapon systems in addition to purchase and license produce Kamov Ka-226T helicopters, four stealth frigates and leasing of one nuclear submarine from Russia,” the MoD official said.
Russian Embassy diplomats in India were unavailable for comment.
A senior defense production official with the Indian MoD said Russia continues to be its top armament supplier, yet “Russian defense companies are unwilling to provide technology transfer of critical spares and other support systems, and they have very little interest in Make in India.”
Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.