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India set to sign $2.6-bn chopper deal with US, push for waiver on Russian S-400 missiles

India & US look to finalise MH-60R Seahawk deal on the sidelines of 2+2 talks in Washington. The choppers will boost Navy’s anti-submarine warfare operations.

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New Delhi: India is set to sign a $2.6-billion deal with the US to procure 24 MH-60 ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopters on the sidelines of the bilateral ‘2+2 dialogue’. It will also seek a waiver from the Trump administration under CAATSA for its S-400 missile systems deal with Russia, ThePrint has learnt.

The 2+2 format talks will be held in Washington DC on 18 December between Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with their respective US counterparts Mike Pompeo and Mark T. Esper.

Sources told ThePrint India is now geared up to sign the chopper deal for the Indian Navy under which it will buy 24 units of US defence major Lockheed Martin’s anti-submarine MH-60 ‘Romeo’ Seahawk helicopters. Negotiations in the deal have been on for almost a decade now.

The purchase of these choppers — capable of hunting submarines, hitting at enemy ships and also conducting search and rescue operations at sea — is expected to boost the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare operations.

Singh will sign the deal on the sidelines of the 2+2 talks, which will be his first visit to Washington as India’s defence minister.

The chopper sale was approved by the Trump administration in April when it notified the deal to the US Congress. However, both sides were waiting for the finalisation of the 2+2 dates to sign the deal.

Official sources told ThePrint India is in an “urgent need” of these helicopters as it is facing an increasingly aggressive China in the Indian Ocean.

Earlier this month, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said a Chinese vessel operating in Indian waters near Port Blair was forced to turn back in September.

Also read: Why India wants to buy the MH-60 ‘Romeo’ helicopters from the US

‘Waiver under CAATSA is easy’

India will also seek a waiver from the US during the 2+2 talks in order to smoothly purchase the S-400 air defence missile systems from Russia. The $5.43 billion was signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s India visit last year.

The US has threatened to impose sanctions on countries that buy weaponry from Moscow under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law, passed in 2017.

Securing a waiver for India from the Trump administration isn’t a very difficult task, said official sources who are involved in the talks but didn’t wish to be named.

India can be “easily” granted a waiver if President Donald Trump directs the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to notify the US Congress on putting India’s name in the list of waiver countries. This is according to the CAATSA provisions, said a source.

Also read: India to receive Russian S-400 Triumf missiles by 2023, despite threat of US sanctions

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

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