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The United States cannot expect India to abruptly stop using Russian military hardware. India’s use of Russian arms came up when US law imposed sanctions on Russia. It broke the American relationship with its partners and allies.

The law in question is the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

What is Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)?

It was passed by the US Congress in July 2017 and signed into law by Donald Trump in August. The law is aimed at sanctioning Russia for its interference in the 2016 US elections. It continued military engagements in Ukraine and Syria. The law also imposes sanctions on individuals and countries that deal with Russia’s intelligence and defense sectors.

The sanctions include blocking of licenses and permissions for any US entity to export a significantly large number of items to India. The restrictions on this front would include any arms sale or the transfer of nuclear equipment or technology. The US and India are in the process of working out multiple nuclear power plant and arms sale projects.

It’s effect on India-US relationship                         

These provisions could put the US foreign policy and defense establishment in a bind with their expanding cooperation with India.

India’s continuing and significant use of Russian military hardware and its joint development of defense projects like BrahMos and the negotiations over the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA, would qualify to get sanctioned by the US government under Section 231 of CAATSA.

The strains that CAATSA could place on the India-US relationship were in focus at a hearing of the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the US Pacific Command views…

He told the committee that India is “a key partner and a great strategic opportunity“.

He says that seventy percent of their military hardware is Russian in origin. He can’t expect India to go cold turkey on that. He ought to look at ways to have a glide path in order to continue to trade in arms within India. He further expressed hope to achieve some relief from the rigidity of the wording of CAATSA.

His comments were in the context of the classified letter from US Secretary of Defence General James Mattis seeking exemptions from Section 231 of CAATSA for a number of US partners and allies. India is believed to be part of this list.

US Republican Senator Tom Cotton further says that.

I do have some concerns about potential unintended consequences among countries for various historical reasons. But we still have Russian hardware and it’d be hard to avoid Russian hardware.

He further says that do you have a country like India that’s a close ally and growing ever closer. But for historical reasons, they just rely on a lot of Russian equipment, and would really impair them and therefore, our relationship with them, tried to ask them to go cold turkey immediately.

Both houses of the US Congress, after holding these hearings have to consider ways to give waivers to countries like India. The existing provisions allow the President to delay the imposition of sanctions under CAATSA by certifying every six months.

It includes the individual or country in question significantly reducing transactions with Russian defense or intelligence sectors. There is no way such a certification can be given to India anytime soon, which would make an exemption the imperative.

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