India Abroad

US May Block Sale Of Armed Drones To India, If Russian Arms Deal Continues

DIVYIA ASTHANA | 0
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| May 29 , 2018 , 10:00 IST

India is one of the world's largest purchasers of military supplies, buying arms from US, Russia, France and Israel, but a newly cleared deal with the US to buy unmanned armed drones is reportedly under threat due to a previously inked deal to buy missile shields from Russia.

Members of a visiting high-powered US Congress delegation on Monday indicated that the US's proposed sale of armed drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper or Predator-B and other high-tech equipment to India may be affected if Russia's deal of S-400 ballistic missile shield continued.

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee William 'Mac' Thornberry who oversees the Pentagon, all US Military Services and the US Department of Defence agencies said that the US would have concerns in dealing with countries that have acquired S-400 systems.

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“There is a lot of concern in the US administration and the Congress that any country that acquires the S-400 systems will complicate the capability to have (military) interoperability with us ... And we value India as a very important strategic partner,” Thornberry said.

"The acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about," he said to NDTV.

Earlier this year, the US had passed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) against Russia for its alleged interference in the US election process. According to the CAATSA, US can technically place sanctions on even close partner nations such as India for purchasing weaponry from Russia, however, there have been no reports of US sanctions on India.

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"In the legislation that passed the house just last Thursday, there was additional flexibility in the law for nations that have historical ties and thus Russian equipment" said Thornberry, adding that "there will be some additional flexibility that will not just be limited to India but there are other countries that fall into that category".

The S-400 missile system, for which India had worked out a Rs 40,000 crore deal with Russia, is capable of hitting aircrafts over 300km away and can intercept incoming missiles. The US-built Predator drones could be used in operations against terrorist launch-pads along the Line of Control with Pakistan. Over the past several decades, Russia has provided the bulk of India's military weapons systems, but India has not expressed favouritism for one military supplying nation over the other.