Washington, October 27
Two powerful US senators have urged President Joe Biden not to impose punitive provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions (CAATSA) law 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, in accordance with CAATSA, because it is in the interest of the national security of the United States.
âWe strongly encourage you to grant CAATSA a waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system. In cases where the granting of a waiver would advance the national security interests of the United States, this waiver authorization, as enshrined in law by Congress, grants the President additional discretion in the application of sanctions â, wrote the two senators.
Warner is chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Intelligence and Cornyn’s Senate Minority Whip for the GOP. Both are co-chairs of the Indian Senate Caucus, the only country-specific caucus in the US Senate.
âWe share your concerns regarding the purchase and further Indian integration of Russian equipment, despite these declining sales. We encourage your administration to continue to reinforce this concern with Indian officials and to engage constructively with them to continue supporting alternatives to the purchase of Russian equipment, âthey wrote.
In October 2018, India signed a $ 5 billion deal with Russia to purchase 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 strict U.S. law that allows the administration to impose sanctions on countries that purchase major defense equipment from Russia in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its alleged interference in elections. US presidential elections of 2016.
In their letter, the two senators wrote that while India has taken significant steps to reduce its purchases of Russian military equipment, it has long been buying arms from the Soviet Union and then from Russia.
âIn 2018, India officially agreed to purchase Russian S-400 Triumf air defense systems after signing an initial agreement with Russia two years earlier. We are concerned that the next transfer of these systems could trigger sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions law, which was enacted to hold Russia accountable for its malicious behavior, âthey said.
The provisions of CAATSA, including sanctions against Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors, are an important tool for the US government to discourage 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 objective of dissuading Russia from arms sales â, argued the two senators.
Warner and Cornyn said Congress has established criteria for determining whether to lift 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 if it would not endanger the national security of the United States, would not affect US military operations or compromise US defense systems.
“We believe a waiver for India is appropriate for several reasons,” they argued.
âFirst, India has taken significant steps to reduce 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 years, âthe letter said.
Meanwhile, India has shown its intention to buy equipment from the United States, with sales reaching $ 3.4 billion in FY20.
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 Trade Clearance Partner-1 (STA-1), they wrote.
âSecond, we believe there is a national security imperative to the lifting of sanctions. Imposing sanctions at this time could derail the deepening of cooperation with India in all aspects of our bilateral relationship – from vaccines to defense cooperation, from energy strategy to technology sharing, âsaid they stated.
In addition, 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 efforts and long-term strategy of the Indian government to reduce Russian purchases and dependence on Russian defense.
âWe share your concerns regarding the purchase and further Indian integration of Russian equipment, despite these declining sales. We encourage your administration to continue to reinforce this concern with Indian officials and to engage constructively with them to continue to support alternatives to the purchase of Russian equipment, âthey said.
They proposed that the Biden administration establish a bilateral task force to identify ways to promote the security of U.S. technology and chart a way forward to develop strategies to improve U.S.-India military interoperability.
“We believe that these actions strengthen India’s status as a major defense partner and will provide another avenue to counter the influence of the PRC (China) in the Indo-Pacific,” the two senators wrote. . PTI