US Senators Urge Biden to Avoid India Sanctions Over Russian Deal

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Two senators from the United States have asked President Joe Biden for an end to sanctions against India in relation to its purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems. They said such a punitive measure would jeopardize growing cooperation.

In 2018, India and Russia signed a $5.5 Billion deal for five surface-to-air missile system systems to defend against long-standing adversaries Pakistan and China. This is in response to the standoff over their disputed border.

However, the transfer proposal has created friction with the United States. In 2017, the law was passed that could lead to sanctions for any country engaging with Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors.

Republican Senator John Corny and Democrat Senator Mark Warner sent a Tuesday letter to Biden requesting a waiver on national security grounds and wider cooperation.

“We believe there is a national security imperative to waiving sanctions,” the senators said in their letter which they issued in a press release.

They expressed concern that the transfer of Russian systems could trigger sanctions against India under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This was enacted in response to Russia’s interference in U.S. election.

India has paid down the S400 system and the first missile battery set is due to be deployed later in the year.

Last year, the United States placed sanctions on Turkey’s purchase of the same equipment.

Cornyn, Warner, co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, stated that they share the administration’s concern about Russia, but warned of potential damage to India’s cooperation if sanctions are imposed.

“We believe that the application of CAATSA sanctions could have a deleterious effect on a strategic partnership with India, while at the same time, not achieve the intended purpose of deterring Russian arms sales,” they wrote.

India has cut back on its purchases of Russian military equipment, which was for many years its main source. There has been a 53% decrease in Russian arms exports from India between 2016 and 2020, compared to the five-year preceding.

India’s defense agreements with the United States have increased with sales of $3.4 billion in the 2020 financial year. These are positive trends, senators stated.

“Imposing sanctions at this time could derail deepening cooperation with India across all aspects of our bilateral relationship – from vaccines to defense cooperation, from energy strategy to technology sharing.”