S-400 deal , Why is India cautious as US sanctions Turkey?
Dec 25, 2020
S-400 deal , Why is India cautious as US sanctions Turkey?
Q. Why is this in news?
- The United States has imposed sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems.
- Turkey acquired the Russian S-400 ground-to-air defenses in mid-2019 and says they pose no threat to NATO allies.
- US has long been threatening sanctions on Turkey and had removed the country from an F-35 jet program last year.
Q. What is the S-400 air defence missile system? Why does India need it?
- The S-400 Triumf, (NATO calls it SA-21 Growler), is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM) designed by Russia. It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
- The system can engage all types of aerial targets including 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 track 100 airborne targets and engage six of them simultaneously.
- It represents the fourth generation of long-range Russian SAMs, and the successor to the S-200 and S-300. The S-400’s mission set and capabilities are roughly comparable to the famed US Patriot system.
- The S-400 Triumf 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.
- The S-400 is two-times more effective than previous Russian air defence systems and can be deployed within five minutes. It can also be integrated into the existing and future air defence units of the Air Force, Army, and the Navy.
Q. Why is it relevant for India?
- China is also buying the system. In 2015, China signed an agreement with Russia to purchase six battalions of the system. Its delivery began in January 2018.
- China’s acquisition of the S-400 system has been viewed as a “game changer” in the region. However, its effectiveness against India is limited. According to experts, even if stationed right on the India-China border and moved into the Himalaya mountains, Delhi would be at the limit of its range.
- India’s acquisition is crucial to counter attacks in a two-front war, including even high-end F-35 US fighter aircraft.
- In October 2015, Defence Acquisition Council considered buying 12 units of S-400 for its defence needs. But, on evaluation, in December 2015, five units were found adequate. The deal is worth about USD 5 billion.
- The deal is near fruition, and negotiations are at an “advanced stage”, and now it is expected to be signed before a summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Q. What is CAATSA, and how did the S-400 deal fall foul of this Act?
- Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was passed unanimously by the US Congress and signed reluctantly by US President Donald Trump. Enacted on August 2, 2017, its core objective is to counter Iran, Russia and North Korea through punitive measures.
- It primarily deals with sanctions on Russian interests such as its oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions, in the backdrop of its military intervention in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US Presidential elections.
- CAATSA, if implemented in its stringent form, would have affected India’s defence procurement from Russia.
Q. What does acts like CAATSA mean for India’s defence landscape?
- As per the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Arms Transfer Database, during the period 2010-17, Russia was the top arms supplier to India. The Russian share in India’s arms imports during the same period has declined to 68 per cent, from an all-time high of 74 per cent during the 2000s, whereas the combined share of the US and Israel has increased from nine to 19 per cent.
- Between 2013 and 2017, Russia’s share declined further to 62 per cent, whereas the combined share of US and Israel increased to 26 per cent.13 Accounting for about 15 per cent, the United States is the second biggest supplier of arms to India during the five year period ending 2017. Between 2000-2009 and 2010-17, US arms deliveries to India have increased by a whopping 1470 per cent.
- Most of India’s weapons are of Soviet/Russian origin – nuclear submarine INS Chakra, the Kilo-class conventional submarine, the supersonic Brahmos cruise missile, the MiG 21/27/29 and Su-30 MKI fighters, IL-76/78 transport planes, T-72 and T-90 tanks, Mi-series of helicopters, and Vikramaditya aircraft carrier.
Q. How did the exemption for India come about?
- CAATSA impacts Indo-US ties and dents the image of the US as a reliable partner. At a time when the US is projecting India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy, with the US National Security Strategy 2017 explicitly supporting New Delhi’s vital role in this regard.
- After months of six months of hectic lobbying – CAATSA came into force in January this year —a US Congressional committee has proposed waivers for India from stringent sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). This is directed against those doing business with Russia’s defence industry.
- The portion of the bill — National Defense Authorisation Act — that amends CAATSA does not mention any country, but the intended beneficiaries of the amended waiver are India, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Q. What’s in it for US?
- The US sees India as a major market for the US defence industry. In the last one decade, it has grown from near zero to USD 15 billion worth of arms deals.
- “Since 2008, the US has bagged more than $15 billion in arms deals including for the C-17 Globemaster and C-130J transport planes, P-8 (I) maritime reconnaissance aircraft, M777 light-weight howitzer, Harpoon missiles, and Apache and Chinook helicopters.
- This value is all set to increase further with the US likely accepting an Indian request for Sea Guardian drones.
- In addition, US defence contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing, are also strong contenders for a number of high-profile arms deals, including the recently floated tender notices for 110 fighter planes for the Indian Air Force, 57 Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters for the Indian Navy, and 234 naval utility and multi-role helicopters.
Q. So, What’s for India now after sanctions on Turkey?
- India hopes that US understands India’s security imperatives, especially with a hostile China along the border. This is more important since Indian and Chinese soldiers have been in a face-off situation for more than six months now, with no resolution in sight.
- How the new US administration acts will also be reflective of how much it appreciates and understands India’s concerns on China, and whether it is going to support India against a belligerent China.