New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is on a three-day visit to Washington, defended India’s right to buy a missile defence system from Russia despite the threat of sanctions from the US. Speaking to reporters, ahead of a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Jaishankar asserted that it was New Delhi’s sovereign right to make such a decision.

“We have always maintained that what we buy — the sourcing of military equipment — is very much a sovereign right. “We would not like any state to tell us what to buy or not to buy from Russia any more than we would like any state to tell us to buy or not buy from America,” he stated.

“That freedom of choice is ours and we think it’s in everybody’s interest to recognise that,” he added further.

In October 2018, India agreed to buy five S-400 systems for USD 5.2 billion, and Russia has said that delivery is on track. Earlier this year in June, the United States had warned India against Russian S-400 Triumf missile deal.

“With respect to S-400, we are urging all our allies and partners, India included, to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act). This is a time we will be encouraging India to look at alternatives,” a senior State Department official had said ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to India.

However, time and again, India has made it clear that it has long-standing defence relationship with Moscow which cannot “be wished away” and a deal has been in discussion with Russia for a decade.