Washington, October 27
Two powerful US senators have urged President Joe Biden not to impose the provisions of the punitive Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against India for purchasing the S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia.
In a letter to Biden, Senators Mark Warner of the Democratic Party and John Cornyn of the Republican Party on Tuesday urged the President to grant a national interest waiver to India, as provided by CAATSA, because it is in the best interest of American national security.
“We strongly encourage you to grant a CAATSA waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system. In cases where granting a waiver would advance the national security interests of United States, this waiver authority, as enshrined in law by Congress, grants the President additional discretion in applying sanctions,” the two senators wrote.
Warner is chairman of the Senate Standing Intelligence Committee and Senate Cornyn Minority Whip for the GOP. Both are co-chairs of the Indian Senate Caucus, the only country-specific caucus in the US Senate.
“We share your concerns about India’s purchase and continued integration of Russian equipment, even with these declining sales. We encourage your administration to continue to reinforce this concern with Indian officials and engage with them in a meaningful way. constructive to continue supporting alternatives to their purchase of Russian equipment,” they wrote.
In October 2018, India signed a $5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defense missile systems, despite the then Trump administration’s warning that the continuation of the contract could trigger US sanctions under CAATSA.
The S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defense system.
CAATSA is a tough U.S. law that allows the administration to impose sanctions on countries that buy major defense equipment from Russia in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and alleged interference in elections. 2016 US presidential elections.
In their letter, the two senators wrote that while India has taken significant steps to reduce its purchases of Russian military equipment, it has a long history of buying arms from the Soviet Union and then from Russia. .
“In 2018, India formally agreed to purchase Russian S-400 Triumf air defense systems after signing an initial agreement with Russia two years prior. We fear that the upcoming transfer of these systems could trigger sanctions in under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which was enacted to hold Russia accountable for its malicious behavior,” they said.
CAATSA provisions, including sanctions targeting the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, are an important tool for the US government to deter Russian arms purchases around the world.
“However, in the case of this current S-400 transaction involving India, we believe that the application of CAATSA sanctions could have a deleterious effect on a strategic partnership with India, while not achieving the ‘aim to deter Russian arms sales,’ argued the two senators.
Warner and Cornyn said Congress established criteria for determining whether to waive CAATSA sanctions. Specifically, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 allows the President to issue a waiver if it is in the national interest and does not endanger the national security of the United States, does not affect US military operations or compromise US defense systems.
“We believe that a waiver for India is appropriate for several reasons,” they argued.
“First, India has taken significant steps to reduce its imports of Russian military equipment in recent years. From 2016 to 2020, there was a 53% drop in Russian arms exports to India compared to the previous five-year period,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, India has shown its intention to buy equipment from the United States, with sales reaching USD 3.4 billion in fiscal 2020.
These are positive trends that show India’s efforts to reduce its reliance on Russian equipment and its desire to leverage its new status as a Strategic Commercial Clearance-1 (STA-1) partner. they wrote.
“Secondly, we believe there is a national security imperative to lifting sanctions. Imposing sanctions at this stage could derail deepening cooperation with India in all aspects of our bilateral relationship – from vaccines to defense cooperation, from energy strategy to technology sharing,” they said.
“Furthermore, the sanctions have the potential to embolden critics in India who warn that the United States will not be a consistent and reliable partner for cooperation, and to thwart the Indian government’s long-term efforts and strategy to reduce Russian purchases and dependence on Russian defense Material.
“We share your concerns about the purchase and continued Indian integration of Russian equipment, even with these declining sales. We encourage your administration to continue to reinforce this concern with Indian officials and engage with them in a meaningful way. constructive to continue supporting alternatives to their purchase of Russian equipment,” they said.
They proposed that the Biden administration establish a bilateral task force to identify ways to promote US technology security and chart a way forward to develop strategies to enhance US-India military interoperability.
“We believe these actions reinforce India’s status as a major defense partner and will provide another avenue to counter PRC (China) influence in the Indo-Pacific,” the two senators wrote. . PTI