India's S-400 missile deal with Russia intact, says Sitaraman
14 July 2018
India will go ahead with the Rs39,000 crore acquisition of five advanced S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia and cannot be party to the recently enacted US law called CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act) that deters other countries also from buying Russian weapon systems, defence minister Nirmala Sitaraman said on Friday
Negotiations with Russia for the procurement of the S-400 missile defence system started years back, much before the recent US law called CAATSA came into force and it has now reached the "conclusive stage", the defence minister pointed out.
"I don't see it as choosing between the US and Russia…We have told the US Congressional delegation (that visited India recently) that we have had continuous relations with Russia, including defence procurements, which have endured for years," said Sitharaman.
In any case, she said, CAATSA is "a US law and not a UN law" and India nor any country for that matter is bound by it.
While Sitharaman did not specify when the S-400 (NATO code: SA-21 Growler) surface-to-air anti-missile shield deal will be signed but she categorically stated that "it is almost at the conclusive stage".
India kicked off plans to acquire the S-400 missile systems, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, spy planes, missiles and drones at a range of up to 400-km and altitude of 30-km, in 2015.
The Russian military has been using the S-400 Triumf air defence missile since 2007 and the system is much more advanced than any western system currently in service.
The S-400 Triumf missiles can travel at a rate of 4.8 kilometres per second (17,000 km/h or Mach 14).
The system can fire a range of missiles, including the 48N6DM/48N6E3 (range 250km), 40N6 (range 400km, maximum altitude 185 km), 9M96E (range 40 km, maximum altitude 20 km) and 9M96E2 (range 120km, maximum altitude 30 km).
The S-400 Triumf system currently employs missiles which use a 143-kilogramme high-explosive fragmentation to kill the incoming aerial threat.
While CAATSA is expected to figure in the inaugural "two-plus-two" dialogue between Sitharaman and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj with their American counterparts, Jim Mattis and Mike Pompeo, which has now been rescheduled for early-September after the 6 July meeting was called off.
Both Mattis and Pompeo, incidentally, have argued for "national security waivers and relief" from CAATSA for countries like India, which has new military projects worth $12 billion with Russia hanging in the balance as well as the critical operational need to maintain the huge inventory of Russian-origin weapon systems in its armed forces.
India and the US will also discuss bilateral military pacts like communications, compatibility and security arrangement (Comcasa) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA) in the two-plus-two dialogue.
Sitharaman said "final positions are yet to be arrived" in the discussions over COMCASA, which the US says will allow India more access to advanced military technologies and platforms with encrypted communications like Predator-B and MQ-9 Reaper drones.
"The two-plus-two meeting will be about developing and strengthening the strategic and defence cooperation between India and the US, how to go forward with LEMOA (the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement inked in 2016) and defence buys," said Sitharaman.
The S-400 deal is likely to be formally inked and announced when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in October 2018.