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S-400 Triumf Deal is Reiteration of India’s Strategic Autonomy

India and Russia having a long history of mutual trust and mutual benefit reaffirmed their commitment to enhance military technical cooperation as well as Moscow’s place as India’s biggest and most important defence partner by concluding the $5.43 billion (₹40300 crore) contract for five S-400 ‘Triumf’ missile systems, after the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday 5 October 2018. During Putin’s 22-hour short visit to Delhi visit, Modi and Putin reserved most of their time for one-on-one interactions spending three hours at dinner on Thursday and nearly two hours on Friday in intense talks.

Deliveries of S-400 will begin in 24 months, at the end of 2020 and India would pay about 15% in advance as per procedure likely through the rupee-rouble mechanism both countries use for trade in their own currencies.

  • The signing of S-400 Long Range Surface to Air Missile to India deal comes, despite U.S. warnings of attracting sanctions, which denotes India’s desire to deepen defence cooperation with Russia, at a time of increased friction between the U.S. and Russia and New Delhi’s own deepening defence cooperation with Washington.
  • This deal is being seen as a reiteration of India’s “strategic autonomy” in its foreign policy and can have serious implications on India’s relationship with the US.
  • S. has already reacted to the S-400 deal, making it clear that any waiver will not be on a “country” basis, but on a “transaction-by-transaction” basis.
  • Accepting a waiver will implicitly commit India to reducing its intake of Russian military hardware.
  • India will need to make some tough decisions both on CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) and on the U.S.’s proposed sanctions on Iran that go into force on November 4, 2018.
  • CAATSA penalises defence purchases from Russia, Iran and North Korea, as soon as the first payment is made, unless President Donald Trump grants a “waiver.”
  • This S-400 deal with Russia, comes just a month after India signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) for better interoperability with the U.S. military.

Eight other agreements spanning diverse areas ranging from space and nuclear cooperation to railways and agriculture were also concluded between India and Russia during the above summit.

Russia also agreed to assist India with training for its Gaganyaan project to put a human in space by 2022.

However, certain other major defence deals with Russia on helicopters, stealth frigates and assault rifles, could not be concluded.

Modi and Putin also addressed a business summit, in an attempt to diversify ties and increase bilateral trade currently below $10 billion and the two countries have set a target of $30 billion bilateral trade by 2025, with most of the investment coming from energy sector.

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