India, Russia sign $5.43 billion S-400 missile deal

Alexander Avilov  Moskva News Agency

India purchased the Russian long-range, surface-to-air missile systems which can destroy cruise and ballistic weapons.

NEW DELHI-India signed a $5 billion deal to buy five Russian S-400 air defence systems on Friday despite a looming threat of US sanctions on countries that trade with Russia's defence and intelligence sectors.

Vladimir Putin met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a showdown summit in New Dehli on Thursday, with analysts warning the deal risks incurring Donald Trump's fury. "India gives priority to its relations with Russia", ANI quoted Modi as saying at a joint press conference.

"It is also politically important in that it signals that India will not abandon Russian Federation as a supplier because of USA pressure".

In recent weeks, US officials have declined to make any promises about what would happen if India went ahead with the S-400 purchase.

India, walking a tightrope between Russian Federation and the United States while keeping a wary eye on China, is expected to seek sanctions waivers but President Donald Trump´s administration has signalled this is unlikely.

India has also been irked by Trump's decision to exit from the 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran, a major supplier of oil to the fast-growing Indian economy.

While China is largely seen as a rival, India is an important US ally.

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India has signaled it will ask Washington for a special waiver from sanctions, though a USA official last week said there is no guarantee it would do so.

"Russia has stood by India through time and has played a crucial role in India's growth story", he said.

However, the U.S. appears to have found itself in a tricky position with it seeking to strengthen ties with India to counter China's growing assertiveness - an issue India is growing concerned about too.

Responding to a query on impact of anti-Russia sanctions on India after the conclusion of the S-400 contract, the USA embassy spokesperson said, "waivers of the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) section 231 will be considered on a transaction-by-transaction basis". The law was created to punish Russian Federation for the 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and alleged "meddling" in the 2016 United States presidential election.

The agreements to be signed are likely to boost cooperation in keys sectors such as defence, space, trade, energy and tourism, among others.

Last year India and China had a military standoff over a Himalayan plateau claimed by both Beijing and Bhutan, a close ally of India. The S-400 deliveries are expected to begin in two years.

The Russian missile system is said to be the best in the world.

"Even if we do not take into account the security and economic consequences of bowing to United States demands, it would create a bad precedent".

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