India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stressed in an interview with AFP that her ecountry needed arms from Russia to remain strong.
The US has warned of sanctions on countries buying Russian military equipment. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, defied the warning in October when he signed a deal worth more than $5 billion on the delivery of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles with President Vladimir Putin.
Sitharaman said India has presented its reasons for the purchase to the US and expects Washington to accept them and avoid imposing sanctions on New Delhi.
“In the case of S-400 we have explained ourselves well. That has been heard and understood. They have appreciated the point of view put forward,” AFP quoted her as saying.
Asked if she was confident that India would avoid sanctions, Sitharaman said: “Yes I hope so.”
US President Donald Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on China’s military in 2018 over Beijing’s purchase of the S-400 and other military hardware from Russia.
The US is currently embroiled in a brewing dispute with Turkey and has warned the NATO member of sanctions for buying the S-400 after suspending Ankara’s participation in the stealth F-35 jet program.
Washington has already cast scorn on New Delhi’s efforts to obtain a waiver from the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) which monitors the S-400 system with a particular focus.
American officials have indicated that the US government is still hopeful to persuade India to forego the agreement.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver told a hearing in March that Washington wanted to “work through” the problem given that India’s contract with Russia had not been completed yet.
Schriver said the US was “very keen to see (India) make an alternative choice (to the S-400) and we are working with them to provide potential alternatives.”
The US government, however, is not in a position to play hardball with India because Washington needs to keep the Asian giant on its side in order to counter China’s growing power.
The United States is specially in a tricky position in the face of efforts by China and India to patch up relations which went into sharp decline in 2017 when they had a military standoff over a Himalayan plateau.
In her interview, Sitharaman stressed the two sides’ determination to sort out their differences.
“Sometimes there are differences and you have a face-off”, but “our attempt has been that these differences… cannot be allowed to become disputes.”