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S-400 deal in India’s ‘national interest’, will be the focus at Putin-Modi summit tomorrow

The $5.43 bn S-400 deal could invite US sanctions but India believes it is in the country’s security interests. The Annual India-Russia Summit will focus on defence, trade ties.

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New Delhi: India is procuring Russian S-400 missile systems, notwithstanding the threat of US sanctions, to keep the country’s national security interests under the principle of “strategic autonomy”, government sources said.

The $5.43 billion deal, under the larger defence partnership between India and Russia, is expected to be the focus of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India for the Annual India-Russia Summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday.

The summit will be preceded by the first ever 2+2 dialogue between New Delhi and Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu will meet their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh ahead of the summit on the same day.

While the S-400 deal invites the risk of US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), India believes the missiles are needed for its “national security interests”, an official said on condition of anonymity.

The deal was signed in October 2018, but several issues still need to be ironed out including delivery schedules, delivery of parts of the missiles and assembly units. These issues will be discussed during the 2+2 talks as well as in the summit, sources said.

Apart from the S-400 deal, enhanced defence, energy and trade ties are also on the cards at the annual summit. The Reciprocal Exchange of Logistics Agreement is also expected to be inked.

Also read: US unlikely to impose CAATSA sanctions on India for S-400, but other Russian deals won’t be easy

‘Relationship at its best’

According to government sources, a significant outcome will be the convening of the inter-governmental commission on military-technical cooperation.

Moreover, ahead of the Russian delegation visit, the Modi government has also approved plans to produce over 5 lakh units of AK-203 assault rifles in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi under an Indo-Russian joint project, said a second source.

“If there is one country with whom the 2+2 was needed it is Russia because of the wide gamut of engagements both sides have in all aspects,” the official said.  

President Vladimir Putin had last visited India in 2018 for the annual summit. 

“President Putin is coming here despite the epidemiological condition that is presently prevalent in Russia… Our relationship has been at its best despite the geopolitical changes,” said a third official.

A range of agreements in the defence, trade and energy sectors are expected to be signed during the summit, sources said.

According to Russian Presidential aide Yuti Ushakov, as many as 10 agreements are likely to be inked during the upcoming summit on Monday. 

“About 10 bilateral agreements will be signed, which are quite important and include some semi-confidential ones… Work is still ongoing on them. We are confident that the package of agreements will be signed as part of the visit,” Tass, a Russian News Agency, quoted Ushakov as saying.

Trade and energy partnership

On bilateral trade, the summit may discuss the formal launching of negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

The EAEU, which was formed in 2015, consists of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

India and Russia will also discuss enhancing their partnership in the civil nuclear deal even as the construction of more reactors will be commissioned at the Kudankulam nuclear plant, sources said.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: India’s last-minute RCEP exit smart & shrewd move, former Australia PM Tony Abbott says


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