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Austin hints India's purchase of Russian S-400 missile system could trigger sanctions

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U.S Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during his visit to New Delhi hinted Saturday that India's planned purchase of an advanced Russian S-400 missile system could trigger U.S. sanctions.

"We certainly urge all our allies and partners to move away from Russian equipment " and really avoid any kind of acquisitions that would trigger sanctions on our behalf," Austin said in response to a question from a reporter about India's plan to acquire the S-400.

However, he stressed that Russia has not yet delivered the equipment to New Delhi. While Austin did discuss the issue with his Indian counterpart, Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh, the two did not discuss potential sanctions because India has not acquired the S-400 missiles yet, he said.

U.S. officials have said the S-400 cannot co-exist with U.S. equipment, as it can be used to collect intelligence on U.S. systems. They are particularly concerned about Russia using the S-400 to learn about the F-35 fighter jet's advanced capabilities.

Ahead of Austin's trip, Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked him to raise democracy and human rights concerns in his talks with the Indian government, as well reaffirm the Biden administration's opposition to India's planned purchase of the Russian S-400 missiles.

"If India chooses to go forward with its purchase of the S-400, that act will clearly constitute a significant, and therefore sanctionable, transaction with the Russian defense sector under Section 231 of CAATSA," Menendez wrote in a recent letter to Austin, referring to the law called Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

"It will also limit India's ability to work with the US on development and procurement of sensitive military technology," Menendez continued. "I expect you to make all of these challenges clear in conversations with your Indian counterparts."

The United States last year imposed sanctions on Turkey for buying the S400 system.

India made an initial payment of $800 million in 2019 towards the Russian purchase and the first set of missile batteries are expected later this year.

"We discussed opportunities to elevate the U.S.-India major defense partnership ... and we'll do that through regional security cooperation and military to military interactions and defense trade," Austin said.

The United States has emerged as one of India's biggest arms sellers, and the two sides are also discussing India's plan to buy armed drones from the United States as well as a large order for over 150 combat jets for the air force and the navy to help narrow the gap with China, Reuters reported on Friday.

U.S. firms Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin are front runners for the multibillion-dollar combat jet deals.

US never considered India and China were on verge of war

Meanwhile, Austin also said that his country doesn't think that "India and China were at war". Speaking at a special briefing after holding talks with defense minister Rajnath Singh, Austin said the US will continue to work with "like-minded countries" to ensure to right things are done to maintain peace.

He was responding to a question about the standoff in Ladakh between the two countries, especially after the Galwan Valley clash in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in June last year.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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