2 US senators urge Biden to avoid imposing bans on India over Russia S-400 deal

A Russian S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile system is seen after its deployment at a military base outside the town of Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad, Russia. (Photo by Reuters)

Two US senators have urged President Joe Biden to grant sanctions waivers to India over its purchase of Russia's S-400 air defense system, citing concerns that the measures could impede Washington's efforts to forge closer ties with New Delhi.

In a letter to Biden, Democratic Senator Mark Warner and Republican Senator John Cornyn warned that imposing punitive measures on India would endanger growing cooperation between Washington and New Delhi.

Under the so-called Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), passed in 2017, any country that engages with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors could face US sanctions. Washington has repeatedly threatened its allies and partners with sanctions, invoking that domestic law.

India signed a $5.5-billion deal with Russia in 2018 for five of the S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, saying that it would not be influenced by other countries on its national security and defense.

"We believe that the application of CAATSA sanctions could have a deleterious effect on a strategic partnership with India, while at the same time, not achieve the intended purpose of deterring Russian arms sales," Warner and Cornyn wrote in their letter.

"Imposing sanctions at this time could derail deepening cooperation with India across all aspects of our bilateral relationship — from vaccines to defense cooperation, from energy strategy to technology-sharing," they added.

India has been cutting back on purchases of military equipment from Russia, which for years was its main source. Instead, its military deals with the US have been increasing, with sales at $3.4 billion in the 2020 financial year, according to the senators.

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