There is no guarantee of US providing a waiver from sanctions if it purchases major weapon systems from Russia, a senior Pentagon official has warned ahead of the high-level ‘2+2 dialogue’ between Washington and New Delhi.
The United States is unhappy with India’s plans to buy the S-400 long-range, surface-to-air missile system from Russia.
The US has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia, under which any country engaged with its defence and intelligence sectors could face secondary US sanctions.
A new defence bill does give the president the authority to grant waivers in case of national security interests, however Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s top Asia official, said this had created a misconception that Washington would not impose sanctions on New Delhi, AFP reported. Schriver 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”. Media reports from the region have suggested that India would get a waiver.
“I would say that is a bit misleading. We would still have very significant concerns if India pursued major new platforms and systems (from Russia),” Schriver said at a think tank event.
“I can’t sit here and tell you that they would be exempt, that we would use that waiver, that will be the decision of the president if he is faced with a major new platform and capability that India has acquired from Russia,” he added.
Schriver said the prospect of India buying the S-400 missile system from Russia is “troubling” for the United States. He urged New Delhi to “seek alternatives and see if we could be a partner in addressing those needs”.
Russia has said it expects to sign a deal with India later this year on the sale.
The Indian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has publicly been a strong proponent of granting India waivers.
On Tuesday, Mattis said the United States was also concerned about Turkey’s purchase of the Russian missile defense system, which cannot be integrated into NATO. Schriver said the United States was willing to talk to India about potential alternatives.
The Pentagon official’s comments come a week before the first-ever 2+2 summit between the defence and foreign ministers of India and the United States on September 6, as agreed upon by US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. The meeting was originally planned for April but was postponed after Trump fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Washington put off the meeting for a second time in June.