Today US Senators and India Caucus Co-Chairs John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mark Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to President Biden encouraging him to waive Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) sanctions against India for buying military arms from Russia.
“As such, we strongly encourage you to grant a CAATSA waiver to India for its planned purchase of the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile system. In cases where granting a waiver would advance the national security interests of the US, this waiver authority, as written into the law by Congress, allows the President additional discretion in applying sanctions,” Senators John Cornyn (Republican) and Mark Warner (Democrat), who are co-chairs of the India Caucus, said in a letter to the President.
The Senators said that while they shared the administration’s concern regarding the purchase and the continued Indian integration of Russian equipment, such transactions between New Delhi and Moscow were declining. The US should continue reinforcing concern over such purchases to New Delhi, but now is not the time for sanctions, they maintained, while suggesting Washington should instead engage constructively with India “to continue supporting alternatives to their purchasing Russian equipment.”
The Senators argued that while India has taken significant steps to reduce its purchases of Russian military equipment, it has a long history of purchasing arms from the Soviet Union, and later Russia, suggesting it will take some time to wean New Delhi away from Russian arms.
Some strategic experts have argued that by applying the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act that was primarily aimed at Russia, Washington risks undermining the US-India partnership aimed at countering China in the Indo-Pacific region. India also finds itself caught in the US-Turkey spat with some lawmakers intent on punishing Turkey for buying arms from Russia.
“We were crystal clear when we wrote the CAATSA law: Sanctions are mandated for any entity that does significant business with the Russian military or intelligence sectors. Any new purchases by Turkey must mean new sanctions,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said last week in a tweet that did not mention India. New Delhi has also argued that India cannot be put in the same category as Turkey given its defense needs.
India formally agreed to purchase Russian S-400 Triumf air-defense systems in 2018 after having signed an initial agreement with Russia two years prior. The systems are expected to be delivered later this year.
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