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US delivers CAATSA warning to India

03 June 2019
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India’s planned procurement of the S-400 missile system from Russia (pictured) could put its strong defence ties with the US at risk, a Department of State official has said. Source: IHS Markit/Peter Felstead

The present course of defence ties between India and the United States could be jeopardised if New Delhi goes ahead with its planned procurement of Almaz-Antei S-400 Triumf self-propelled surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems from Russia, a US Department of State official has said.

In comments to Jane’s on 3 June, the official made reference to the strong defence ties that have developed between the US and India but also to the potential for these expanding relations to be affected by New Delhi’s proposed S-400 acquisition and US legislation, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which proposes penalties on Russian defence customers.

The US official said, “US-India defence ties have seen remarkable growth over the past decade‎. A major new purchase like [the] S-400 puts this positive trajectory at risk and may result in action under the Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

“For that reason, we urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that could potentially trigger sanctions. We cannot prejudge whether or not any specific transaction would result in sanctions prior to the Secretary of State's determination.‎ At this time, the Secretary has not made any determination regarding the significance under of any Indian transaction,” the official added.

Since being signed into law in August 2017, CAATSA has been modified by a clause introduced through the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2019 that allows for a possible CAATSA waiver under certain conditions. However, the US Department of State official said that the waiver clause comes with no assurances.

“We have made it clear that no country should count on a waiver,” said the official. “CAATSA does not have any blanket or country-specific waiver provision. There are strict criteria for considering a waiver, and each transaction is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

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