India will go ahead with Russian missile deal

India will go ahead with the Rs.39,000-crore acquisition of five advanced S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia despite pressure from the US, Union defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

India has reached the “conclusive stage” in the procurement of the S-400 systems after negotiating with Russia over the last few years, much before the US law called CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) came into force to deter countries from buying Russian weapon systems.

“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 relations with Russia, including defence procurements, which have endured for years,” Sitharaman said, dismissing CAATSA as “a US law and not a UN law”.

India had kicked off plans to acquire the S-400 missile systems, which can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, missiles and drones at a range of up to 400 km and altitude of 30 km. CAATSA will figure in the inaugural ‘two-plus-two’ dialogue between Sitharaman and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj with their American counterparts, Jim Mattis and Mike Pompeo, now slated for early-September.

India and the US will also discuss bilateral military pacts like Communications, Compatibility and Security Arrangement and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation. But Sitharaman said “final positions are yet to be arrived” in discussions over COMCASA, which the US says will allow India more access to advanced military technologies.

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