Washington: A top Pentagon official has cautioned India that there are no guarantees for a special waiver from US sanctions if it buys new weapons platforms from Russia, said media reports on Thursday. Washington is alarmed at the prospect of India, an increasingly important US military ally and the world’s top defence importer, buying new systems from Russia, including its S-400 long-range, surface-to-air missile system. The word of caution comes days before the first-ever 2+2 dialogue between the two nations.

The United States has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, under which any country engaged with its defence and intelligence sectors could face secondary US sanctions. However, a new defence bill gives the president the authority to grant waivers in case of national security interests. But after lobbying from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Congress granted the US president and the secretary of state the option of granting waivers, such as when an ally nation transitions from legacy Russian gear to Western arms. (Also read: 2+2 Dialogue Important Opportunity to Enhance Engagement With India)

Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said the waiver authority had created the impression Washington would insulate India “from any fallout from this legislation no matter what they do…I would say that’s a bit misleading,” Schriver told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace in Washington.

“We would still have significant concerns if India pursued major new platforms and systems (from Russia). I can’t sit here and tell you that they would be exempt, that we would use that waiver.” Schriver was speaking ahead of a historic summit in New Delhi next week that will see Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet with their Indian counterparts. Schriver, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, said there was an “impression that we are going to completely protect the India relationship, insulate India from any fallout from this legislation no matter what they do.” According to Zee, the Indian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. (Agencies)