India is finally all set to ink the $5.43 billion (over Rs 39,000 crore) deal for five advanced S-400 Triumf missile systems from Russia, brushing aside the threat of US financial sanctions that were last week imposed on China for buying the same air defence system.
Government sources said the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by PM Narendra Modi, cleared the mega “game-changing acquisition” on Wednesday, ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India early next month.
There was, however, no official word from the government. The S-400 systems can detect, track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, stealth fighters, spy planes, missiles and drones at a maximum range of almost 400-km and altitude of 30-km.
Sources said India will have to pay only 15% of the total amount on inking of the final contract, with the rest being linked to deliveries. IAF is slated to get the first S-400 missile squadron, with its command posts, launchers, all-terrain transporter-erector-launcher vehicles, acquisition and engagement radars, around 24 months after the contract is inked.
All five squadrons, with two firing units each, will come in 54-60 months. The highly-mobile and automated S-400 systems, which can track 100 to 300 targets simultaneously, can be used to protect cities during war or vital installations like nuclear power plants.
The US last Thursday imposed sanctions on the Chinese military for acquiring S-400 systems and Sukhoi-35 fighter jets from Russia under its new law called CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act), which seeks to deter countries from buying Russian weapons or Iranian oil. China began to induct six S-400 batteries, which is designated the `SA-21 Growler’ by NATO, earlier this year under a $3 billion deal inked in 2014.
India remains hopeful of securing a waiver from the US for its proposed acquisition of the five S-400 systems, four Grigorivich-class stealth frigates and 200 Kamov-226T light helicopters as well as the lease of a second nuclear submarine from Russia.
These four mega projects between India and Russia, together worth around $12 billion, are now close to being inked after years of negotiations and inter-governmental agreements, much before CAATSA came into force in August 2017.
“The US sanctions kick in when a significant transaction is actually completed. Negotiations are underway for a way around it,” said a source. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, incidentally, had earlier dismissed CAATSA as “a US law and not a UN law”.
Both US defence secretary Jim Mattis and secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who were here for the inaugural two-plus-two dialogue on September 6, have also strongly pushed India’s case to get “national security waivers” from CAATSA. Pompeo, in fact, said Washington’s intention was “not to penalize great strategic partners like India.”
TOI was the first to report in October 2015 that India had kicked off plans to acquire the S-400 missile systems. Subsequently, the inter-governmental agreement for the five S-400 systems was inked during the Modi-Putin summit at Goa in October 2016.
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