No ‘Adverse Fallout’ on India-US Relations if PM Modi Signs S-400 Deal With Russia


New Delhi: Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Delhi for the 19th India-Russia annual summit. He will be holding official talks on Friday morning with PM Narendra Modi in Hyderabad House but the two leaders had a one-on-one meeting within hours of the Russian leader landing in Delhi on Thursday evening. This was followed by a dinner at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg.

So, the two leaders are meeting twice during 24 hours and this comes within five months of the two holding an informal summit in May this year in Sochi. The indications are clear, both India and Russia want to give a fresh impetus to the relationship in the backdrop of what was perceived as New Delhi’s bonhomie with Washington DC resulting in Moscow’s growing proximity to Islamabad.

Anil Trigunayat, former deputy ambassador to Russia, had this to say about the changing equations, “Let’s be real about it, it’s realpolitik, it’s a real world. Russians have their own interest, strategic, global, market interest, so does India.” He also pointed out that this wasn’t the first time Russia was seen drifting Pakistan’s way. He said, however, they realise that India is a much bigger market and a bigger democracy where things may or not work but at least you can talk.

Alluding to the ties that date back many decades he said, “There is a grassroots level affection for Russians and therefore this relation is not going anywhere though its component might change.”

Defence remains the bedrock of this relationship and both sides look all set to sign the S-400 deal. India will be purchasing 5 S-400 air defence systems for $6 billion despite US sanctions against Russia. India believes that there will be “no negative fallout on Indo-US relations” if it goes ahead with the deal.

It is learnt that during the India-US 2+2 dialogue on September 6, the Americans did understand that India can’t switch from a Russian dependent system overnight. And that it is also in US interest to not jeopardise India’s security.

Days later while speaking to the press, Alice Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said India was not the intended target of Russia and Iran-related sanctions as also expressed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This was further hint that the S-400 deal would not attract punitive measures under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) imposed on Russia. Wells was part of the team that travelled to India in September.

However, challenges will be thrown up later during payments. But Russians believe adversity can be changed into opportunity and here’s how.

Sergey Mitreykin, Head of representative office of Gazprombank, believes it can push India and Russia to deal in Rouble and Rupee despite obvious challenges. He said, “Sanctions do hurt trade overall and relationships as well but they also create an opportunity. Because definitely these hurdles created by the Americans are bound to drive India and Russia closer. And besides forming new alliances geographically and regionally, this is going to be the first step towards diminishing the role of the dollar as the worldwide trade currency.”


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