Even as India faces the prospect of inviting CAATSA sanctions by the US against the purchase of the Russian-made S-400 missile system, a top official from Biden’s administration has indicated that New Delhi may be exempted under the American law.
James O’Brien, the nominee for Coordinator for Sanctions Policy, on Wednesday said that despite aspersions cast by some senior officials, “there are important geostrategic considerations, particularly with the relationship to China” and “so, I think, we have to look at what the balance is”.
O’Brien was summoned before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing.
During the hearing, Republican Senator Todd Young was asking O’Brien about sanctioning India under the Countering America`s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) which requires sanctions against countries buying Russian defence equipment.
“The administration made clear that it is discouraging India from proceeding with the acquisition of Russian equipment,” O’Brien said, but added that there were “important geostrategic considerations”.
Indiana Senator Young noted that Washington had imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence establishments for buying the S400 system and asked if that provided “any warning or lessons for how to proceed with India”.
“India’s vital ally in our competition against China, and that’s why I believe we should resist taking any actions that might drive them away from us and the Quad. I’m therefore strongly supportive of waiving CAATSA sanctions against India, given our shared foreign policy interests,” Young said.
Chuck Schumer, the leader of the majority Democratic Party in the Senate, has previously expressed opposition to waivers while Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez has been ambivalent about it.Young, along with fellow Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Roger Marshall introduced a bill last year to help India evade the CAATSA sanctions.
But the legislation called “Circumspectly Reducing Unintended Consequences Impairing Alliances and Leadership Act of 2021” (CRUCIAL Act) went nowhere in the last Senate session.
In 2018, Russia and India finalised the S-400 deal worth $4.5 billion for five squadrons, despite objections from the US.
The US tried to stop it with a counteroffer of its rival Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAD) and Patriot systems, but the offer came too late.
In November, the US had said that it is yet to determine whether it will waive those sanctions with respect to the deal between India and Russia.
Meanwhile, there are reports that India has already deployed the first squadron of the S-400 missile system in the western Punjab sector.
(With inputs from agencies)