India hopes for US waiver as it seeks arms from Russia

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NEW DELHI

Given the Chinese military buildup along the disputed Himalayan border, India is hoping to get a US waiver for its purchase of S-400 missile defense system and other armaments from Russia. 

The US federal law Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanction Act imposes sanctions against countries that engage in defense and intelligence transactions with Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

Last month, the US Assistant Secretary of State Clarke Cooper once again cautioned India against going ahead with the procurement.

“Don’t put at risk future opportunities that may be impeded by significant Russian defense articles,” Cooper said during an online briefing, reported by Defense Aviation Post, a website covering the defense sector and aviation industry.

“It’s not everything, but something like the [anti-aircraft systems] S-400 will be a challenge, something like the Sukhoi [fighter jet]Su-35 will be a challenge,” said Cooper.

As tensions with China threaten to boil over, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh recently urged Russia to speed up delivery of its powerful S-400 air defense missile system, according to Indian media reports.

In October 2018, India signed its biggest arms deal worth $5.43 billion to purchase five regiments of the S-400. China already has the S-400 air system.

Experts believe that the cutting-edge S-400 system can detect and shoot down targets including ballistic missiles, enemy jets and drones up to 600 kilometers (373 miles) away, at altitudes of between 10 meters and 27 km (17 mi).

S-400 superior to US Patriot

Against the speed of 5,000 km per hour (3,106 mi per hour) of the US Patriot air defense system, Russian S-400 has a maximum speed of 17,000 km per hour (10,563 mi per hour), confirmed Ajai Shukla, a defense analyst, and former army officer, who has commanded India’s most elite tank regiment.

“We’re not risking our bilateral relations with the US with this deal. It is a clear understanding that they do not have a comparative system against the S-400. The US president has a provision to provide a waiver, and it is highly likely that India will receive it,” he said.

According to plans, India is supposed to take delivery of the missile system by December 2021. But with the ongoing tensions at its borders, it has asked Russia to expedite the delivery, according to a Defense Ministry readout.

Other armaments like the Very Short-Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) missiles and Kamov helicopters are expected to arrive by the end of 2020.

Former Air Vice Marshal, Manmohan Bahadur, said India needed to get the missile defense system. In July, India also cleared the acquisition of additional fighters from Russia., including 21 MIG-29s along with the up-gradation of the existing 59 MIG-29 fleets.

While the MIG 29 procurement and upgradation from Russia are estimated to cost $1 billion, the Su-30 MKI will cost an additional amount of $1.4 billion.

Better radar system

According to the Russian government, with its powerful radar systems, S-400 can pick-up over 300 aerial objects and can even prioritize them as per threat perception, and destroy at least 30.

“The S-400 can prove to be a total game-changer. It is an integrated air defense system with a range varying from 40-400kms,” said Wing Commander (Retd.) Amit Ranjan Giri, a veteran fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force.

Girl further added that the S-400 system, if deployed, along the border will provide India an edge of 600kms radar coverage with the option of shooting down incoming aircraft from 400kms from its territory.

Belarus was the first foreign buyer to make an S-400 deal with Russia in 2011 followed by China in 2014 and Turkey in 2017.

The US has since issued threats against China and Turkey for procuring the Russian system.

While China had received the first batch of the S-400 missiles in 2018, Moscow with an eye on the deal with India had suspended further deliveries. But according to Russian news agency TASS, Moscow reportedly delivered the second batch of the system to China in December 2019, amid rising tensions with the US.

Ruling party member opposes the deal

A senior member of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led ruling party BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party), Subramanian Swamy, however, has warned the government against procuring the Russian missile system.

Taking to Twitter recently, Swamy, who is also a member of the Indian parliament wrote: “The government would be well-advised not to use S400 in a possible battle with China. This is because S-400 is made with Chinese electronics. Russia is today a junior partner of China.”

In December last year, Swamy had warned the government the presence of Chinese electronics in the system.

Swamy also warned against crippling US sanctions because of the purchase of S-400. He said the missile defense system may be a fine weapon, but is embedded with Chinese electronics.

While the Ministry of Defense officials were not available to comment on Swamy’s statement, local media cited a 2012 US senate sub-committee investigation that found 1,800 cases of fake electronics being used in US military aircraft with 70% parts traced to China.

“The aircraft on which such counterfeit electronic equipment was used included the C-130J transport aircraft and the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, both of which have been sold to India by the US. In addition to posing a risk of failure, such counterfeit equipment could potentially be used as a means for implanting tracking and espionage systems,” stated The Week, a weekly news magazine in India.

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