Why India Russia S 400 Deal is More than a Defence Sales Agreement?
Multiple media sources have indicated that India and Russia will sign the long awaited Rs 39,000-crore deal for the supply of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems to the India Air Force during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi on 04 and 05 October.
Lauding induction of the S 400 along with the Rafale, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa in his pre Air Force Day conference on 03 October said, “Rafales (to be inducted in 2019-2022) and S-400s are like booster doses for a depleting IAF.”
The characteristics of the S 400 Triunf as indicated by the web site Army Technology does denote the force multiplier impact of the system
Army Technology states that, “The S-400 Triumph air defence system integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and command and control centre. It is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defence”.
More over it can engage multiple targets to include, “aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 400km, at an altitude of up to 30km. The system can simultaneously engage 36 targets,” and is said to be two times more effective than the S 300 which preceded it.
Recently Israel Air Force F 35 the United States supplied fifth generation fighter had penetrated the S 300 which has been deployed in Syria and now Russia is planning to send an advanced version to the country.
The S 400 will thus effectively neutralise known aircraft systems that are operating in the Indian aerospace environment
India is planning to scale down air defence procurements in anticipation of the induction from Russia thus denoting effectiveness of the air defence system.
A rapidly depleting Indian Air Force squadron strength down to 31 and a two front war scenario would deem it necessary for India to rely more on ground based air defence assets.
Thus suffice to say the S 400 procurement is in national interests.
At the same time there could be multiple challenges that may impact the S 400 sales given that the United States has threatened to impose sanctions on India under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA.
The Hindu has reported a US State Department Spokesperson who said that, “We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that would trigger sanctions under CAATSA. The Administration has indicated that a focus area for the implementation of CAATSA Section 231 is new or qualitative upgrades in capability – including the S-400 air and missile defense system.”
The statement is a warning to India not to go for the S 400 deal with Russia. There are reports that the US is keen to sell the NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface to Air Missile System) to India jointly developed with Norway.
Commercial considerations apart, the imposition of the bilateral sanctions on a third country by the United States raises issues related to national sovereignty for India. Will India be willing to cow to US laid restrictions transcribed by some domestic media in New Delhi as “threats,” or should it demonstrate autonomy in decision making and bilateral relations.
The issue also reflects commitment to projecting multilateralism in international relations.
The United States under the Trump Administration is increasingly getting into what some analysts have portrayed a New Cold War – confronting the strategic rivals China and Russia – named as adversaries in the National Defence Strategy and the National Security Strategy issued recently.
India wily nily will be drawn into the global power struggle yet New Delhi is not a small player and as an emerging power credibility will be questioned if it acts beyond its national interest.
No doubt the S 400 is much more than a mere defences sales agreement?