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October 10, 2018

S-400 missile system for India


October 10, 2018

India and Russia have formally inked a $5.2 billion deal for the S-400 air defence system, which is expected to be delivered by the year 2020. The S-400 Triumf is an advanced surface-to-air missile system, developed by a Russian state-owned company and can shoot down hostile aircraft and ballistic missiles. It has an estimated range of 250 kilometres. In short, the S-400 is an integrated, highly-mobile system of radars and missiles of different ranges to address multiple threats.

But the move could invite US sanctions under the 'Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act' or CAATSA. This law, introduced on August 2, 2017, among other things, imposed new sanctions on Iran, Russia and North Korea.

CAASTA forces countries like India not to buy Russian weapons or as a consequence New Delhi could face sanctions. The new law would also force India to use some other currency apart from the US dollar to set the exchange rate between the Russian currency and the Indian rupee for purchase of armaments. Earlier, India was making payments for defence contracts with the US dollar.

Reports indicate that the S-400 system is hurting the US geo-political power as Russia is offering it to many countries that are to a great extent under the American influence. Then, it has been reported that the missile system can bring down the most modern American stealth fighter jets, including the F-35. Turkey acquiring the F-35 fighter aircraft and S-400 from Russia is one case in which the weaknesses of F-35 identified by the Russian missile system consequently could be exposed to Russia.

The Trump administration had wanted India to discard the Russian deal and buy a US missile system. The US government wanted to sell Patriot, along with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system or the Aegis area defense system to India.

As it is, the US has repeatedly urged India to forgo the deal to buy the S-400 missile defence system. A US official, according to published reports, was quoted as saying: “We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that would trigger sanctions under CAATSA. The Administration has indicated that a focus area for the implementation of CAATSA Section 231 is new or qualitative upgrades in capability – including the S-400 air and missile defense system.”

The waiver provisions may not apply to India in this deal. “There are strict criteria for considering a waiver. The waiver is narrow, intended to wean countries off Russian equipment and allow for things such as spare parts for previously-purchased equipment,” added the official.

While President Donald Trump could waive these sanctions, American officials have warned New Delhi that India should not expect an automatic waiver if it goes ahead with the purchase from Russia.

Some reports in the Indian media had indicated that Russian S-400 missile system is the Indian Air Force’s answer to its depleting fighter strength, which has 33 squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 39 squadrons and even this number is likely to shrink to 19 by 2027 when 14 squadrons of MiG-21, MiG-27 and MiG-29 aircraft are retired.

To support the deal, the Indian media has boasted the capabilities of the system with regards to Pakistan, assuming that Pakistan would not do anything to counter the threat S-400 poses.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has recently inducted a Chinese-made Low-to-Medium altitude Air Defence System (LOMADS) LY 80, which is capable of intercepting and destroying aerial targets flying at low and medium altitude.

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