Tue, 17 May 2022

By Reena BhardwajWashington [US], January 15 (ANI): US President Joe Biden's nominee for Coordinator for Sanctions Policy James O'Brien has hinted at a "balance" in US approach on India's requirements for Russian S-400 missile defence systems, vis-a-vis Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

On Wednesday O'Brien appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his nomination confirmation, where he made clear that the US is "discouraging" India from proceeding with its acquisition of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia but Washington will have to weigh "important geostrategic considerations" while taking a decision on growing calls for a presidential CAATSA waiver to New Delhi.

"The administration has made clear that it is discouraging India from proceeding with the acquisitions of Russian equipment, and there are important geostrategic considerations, particularly with relationship to China. So, I think we have to look at what the balance is. And, of course, India's got some decisions in front of it." President Joe Biden's nominee told lawmakers.

The hearing was chaired by Senator Bob Menendez, the committee is made up of 22 senators -- an even split of Democrats and Republicans. Senator Todd Young, a top Republican senator during the hearing stressed that the Biden Administration should resist from any action that might drive New Delhi away from Quad supporting waiving of CAATSA sanctions against India for purchase of S-400 missile systems from Russia.

Todd noted that Washington had imposed sanctions on Turkey's defence establishments for buying the S400 system and questioned O'Brien if Turkey's sanctions provided any warning or lessons on how to proceed with India.

"India's a vital ally in our competition against China, and that's why I believe we should resist taking any actions that might drive them away from us and the Quad. I'm therefore strongly supportive of waiving CAATSA sanctions against India, given our shared foreign policy interests," Young added.

"I believe they are very different circumstances, and, of course, different security partnerships, but how do you believe we should think about the possibility of sanctioning our friends and not just threats," he asked.

In response, O'Brien said, " It is difficult to compare the two situations, with a NATO ally that is breaking legacy with defence procurement systems, and then with India, a partner of growing importance, but that has legacy relationships with Russia."Once O'Brien's nomination is successfully discharged from the Senate foreign relations committee, the Senate will need to vote on his nomination.

Earlier last year, US Senator John Cornyn, co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, Congressman Brad Sherman of California and Congressman Mike Waltz of Florida, a powerful Republican leader, also called for the United States to waive possible sanctions on India for buying the S-400 defence missile system from Moscow and urged for deepening cooperation between the two countries. Besides the S-400 concerns, lawmakers also underscored that the US needs to strengthen its relationship with India to keep China and the Taliban under check. The legislators called for an alliance between India and the US that would allow both countries to maintain and expand their global strength amidst China's aggressive postures in the region.

In the year 2018, India signed a USD 5.4 billion deal with Russia to buy the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system. India made a down payment and plans to complete the purchase by 2025. The system's delivery commenced late last year. (ANI)

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