‘$5.5bn military deal with Russia in place’

New Delhi, June 5: India will go ahead with the proposed purchase of five regiments of Russian-made S-400 Triumf advanced air defense system despite US concerns that the $5.5 billion military deal could limit defence cooperation between New Delhi and Washington.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the negotiations between India and Russia to finalise the Rs 39,000-crore deal were already in the last stage and won’t be hampered by the US red-flagging the deal for which the two countries signed an agreement in principle in 2016.

She said India had made it clear in all its engagements with the US that its ties with Russia were independent of external influences and relationships with other countries. “I would like to make it clear here that in all our engagements with the United States, we have very clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation is something which has been going on for a very long time. It is a time-tested relationship. And India has got quite a lot of defence assets from Russia — assets, spares, servicing. We have a continuous relationship with Russia has been recalled.”
The Defence Minister’s remarks come days after a top US Congressmen, Republican Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services, told a group of journalists here that there was a lot of concern in both the Trump administration and the Congress regarding the S-400 missile system being acquired by any of American partners, including India.

Thornberry, who was in India last week, said if New Delhi went ahead with the purchase, it would complicate “our ability to work out inter-operability” at a time when the US had issued sanctions against Russian oligarchs and companies. These include Rosoboronexport, the state-owned Russian weapons trading company. The Congressman said the US was making sanctions against Russia “flexible” for its allies like India to allow them breathing room to continue dealing with Moscow — but only to maintain their legacy equipment and at the same time they must wean themselves off Russian equipment. (IANS)