Stage set for the US to waive off sanction on India’s purchase of Russian S-400 Air Defence System


Ahead of the India-China Corps Commander Talks on Sunday July 17, the US House of Representatives has passed a historic amendment on Thursday which will provide a waiver to India under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA. The amendment was authored and introduced by Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna. He received a majority of 330 to 99. In the next step it will now go to the Senate and then to the office of the US President Joe Biden before it is  implemented.

Has the waiver been given?

No. “Not yet. It’s a long way off,” explained a senior officer.

It is just an amendment which has been passed in the House of Representatives and it has “urged’’ the Biden administration to grant a waiver. This does not mean that it has been granted.

Who can grant the waiver?

Only the US President is the final authority to grant the CAATSA waiver.

The amendment which has urged the Biden administration for a waiver under CAATSA is not a bill which has to be voted on and then signed into a law.

What is CAATSA?

This was signed during the tenure of President Donald Trump into a federal law in 2017. And it allows the US to punish countries which are doing significant transactions with countries including Iran, Russia, and North Korea.

Meaning of the amendment suggested

Once the amendment is made it will deepen US –India ties and in an effort to deter China, it will also urge the Biden administration to help give the waiver to India.

What did Representative Khanna say?

He said: “The US must stand with India in the face of escalating aggression from China. As Vice Chair of the India Caucus, I have been working to strengthen the partnership between our countries and ensure that India can defend itself along the Indian Chinese border.”

 “This amendment is of the utmost importance, and I am proud to see it pass the House on a bipartisan basis.”

By suggesting the amendment he believes that a strong US-India US partnership is critical for advancing US interests in the Indo-Pacific.

The partnership between the two countries needs to be further strengthened as the threats in the Indo-Pacific region increases and it will send an unequivocal signal that sovereignty and international law must be respected.

The way US looks at it: Growing Chinese Belligerence & India’s defence on Russian platforms

During discussions in the US House of Representatives it was recognized that issues related to China and dependence on Russian platforms needs to be taken into account and the Biden administration to take steps which will encourage India to move away from the Russian equipment and platforms.

The CAATSA waiver will be important and beneficial to both the countries, believed the House of Representatives who have sought for a transition period to deter aggressors in light of the growing China and Russia partnership.

India & CAATSA & S-400

For India it has been a matter of concern since the time India and Russia had inked USD 4.5 billion deal to buy five units of S-400 Triumf ‘SA-21Growler’ which is a long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, at the end of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Under Section 231 of CAATSA, around 39 Russian entities are on the list, which invites sanctions. Major defence companies including: Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG, Rosoboronexport, Sukhoi Aviation,  Almaz-Antey Air and Space Defence Corporation JSC – the company behind the S-400 system.

The idea behind CAATSA

It was primarily to punish Russia over the Crimean annexation in 2014 and its alleged role in the US elections in 2016. And it was first imposed on NATO-ally Turkey for its purchase of the Russia-S-400 system.

Last year, a CAATSA sanction was imposed on China’s Equipment Development Department (EDD) under the Ministry of Defence of China for the purchase of 10 SU-35 Russian fighter jets in 2017 and S-400 equipment in 2018.

So far the US has not imposed it on India. This year there were reports that the Biden administration was to take a decision.

India-US Military Trade

The US-India Military trade as reported in the Financial Express Online has touched USD 20 billion and it is expected to go up once two major deals including the Predator Drones for the Indian Navy are inked soon.

India is considered as a close and an important ally of the US in its efforts to control China’s growing presence across the region and beyond. India is already part of the QUAD and West Asia QUAD.

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