New Delhi: Keeping United States’ threat of imposing sanctions at bay, India is set all set to sign the over Rs-40,000 crore air defence system deal with Russia on Friday. The deal – aimed at tightening India’s air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border – is expected to be signed during the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who arrived in New Delhi for a two-day visit on Thursday.
Other than the USD 5 billion contract, the two leaders, during the one-on-one meeting during the 19th India-Russia annual summit, are also expected to sign 20 other pacts in key sectors. The agreements to be signed are likely to boost cooperation in keys sectors such as defence, space, trade, energy and tourism, among others.
The spotlight will be on the S-400 missile defence system deal as, if signed, it could violate US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Russia.
The US has urged its allies to forgo transactions with Russia, warning that the S-400 missile defence system that India intends to buy would be a “focus area” for it to implement punitive sanctions against a nation undertaking “significant” business deals with the Russians.
American lawmakers, however, have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver.
India has already given indications that it will go ahead with the deal notwithstanding the US sanctions.
“India has maintained its sovereignty as regards to its relationship with countries. We shall maintain it in all earnestness,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told PTI recently when asked whether the US sanctions will hit India’s defence ties with Russia, especially after the signing of the S-400 missile deal.
India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border.
S-400 is known as Russia’s most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system. China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 to procure the lethal missile system and Moscow has already started delivery of an undisclosed number of the S-400 missile systems to Beijing.
The S-400 is an upgraded version of the S-300 systems. The missile system, manufactured by Almaz-Antey, has been in service in Russia since 2007.
Russia has been one of India’s key suppliers of arms and ammunition.
Sources had earlier said Modi and Putin would also deliberate on impact of US sanctions on import of crude oil from Iran.
On Thursday, Putin was received by External Affairs Minister Sushma at the Delhi Airport after which went straight to Modi’s official Lok Kalyan Marg residence where the latter received him with a warm hug and hosted a private dinner for the visiting dignitary.
The Russian President is accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov among others during his two-day visit.
Ahead of his meeting, Modi tweeted, “Welcome to India, President Putin. Looking forward to our deliberations, which will further enhance India-Russia friendship.” The tweet was also posted in the Russian language.
Besides holding talks with Modi, the Russian leader will also have a meeting with President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.
He will also interact with a group of talented children and address an India-Russia business meet.
The last annual summit was held on June 1, 2017, during the visit of the prime minister to Russia.
In May, Modi had travelled to Russian coastal city of Sochi for an informal summit with Putin during which they discussed a range of crucial issues.
(With PTI inputs)