India’s need S-400
India has volatile borders. The two of India’s biggest security treats come from Pakistan and China. China has already bought six battalions of the S-400 system in 2015, deliveries for which has begun from January 2018. With current acquisition, India is at a stronger ground as S-400 can play a crucial role in case of a two-front war. The Indian Air Force intends to use S-400 in the ‘offensive air defence’ role rather than its designed role of protecting high-value targets like Delhi, for which it was originally proposed.
Other gains from the deal
Bilateral: India’s defense engagements with Russia become deeper. Russia has managed to secure one of the biggest arms deals in recent times. It is apparent that Russia commands a massive lead over its competitors in the Indian defence sector, and is a crucial supplier of advanced weapons for India
Strategic: Russia is no longer coy about selling weapons to Pakistan. But by making big-ticket purchases, India hopes it discourages Russia from selling any advanced weapons to Pakistan.
Significance of the deal vis-à-vis sanction threat
The US recently sanctioned China for buying the S-400 and Su-35 fighter jets from Russia. But, India is likely to get a waiver from the US. If India gets it, it will signify how strategically important India is, for both Russia and the US.
India had been pursuing for this deal since 2015, well before Donald Trump became the US president and CAATSA was legislated. India has spent a lot of political capital to get a waiver. It was one of the main talking points during the 2+2 dialogue between India and the US.
Sanctions can also be taken as a coercion tactic to stop India from buying the S-400, and also to push US air defence systems, like the PAC-3, in India. The US is willing to gain from a potential 200 fifth generation fighter jet requirement of India.
It is believed that, with the deal, India has displayed strategic autonomy. However, as a country which imports majority of its critical weapons, it will always limit India’s strategic autonomy.
Although, India has come a long way since the days of NAM, given the volatility of Indian neighbourhood, it is critical that India maintains balanced relations with major powers instead of pushing its luck with one. In the process of doing so, there will be many cases of walking on a tight rope, like the current one.
India-Russia relationship is no longer what it used to be. Do you agree? What are the bottlenecks in their relations? Discuss in context of India’s growing closeness to the U.S
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