India approves purchase of Russian fighter jets despite US sanction threats
India has approved buying 33 Russian fighter jets, worth more than $2.4 billion, despite US threats to impose sanctions on the country over transactions with Moscow.
New Delhi approved on Thursday the purchase of 21 MiG-29 planes and a dozen Su-30 jets which will cost a total of $2.43 billion, according to the defense ministry.
The purchase, along with the upgrade of 59 other MiG-29s, was an attempt to address the “long felt need of the Air Force to increase its fighter squadrons,” it added.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh paid a visit to Moscow last month, calling on his hosts to speed up deliveries, officials have said.
The deal came as the Indian air force is about to retire its old fighter jets — most of them of Russian origin.
Russia has long been India’s biggest weapons supplier, but in recent years, the US has been trying to get in their way by imposing sanctions on the purchase of Russian armaments.
Yet, New Delhi and Moscow signed a deal back in 2018, for the supply of Russian S-400 missile system, worth $5.4 billion.
The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on President Donald Trump’s administration for exemptions from sanctions, mandated under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
CAATSA, signed into law in July 2017, mandates Washington to impose secondary sanctions on any nation entering into high-value deals to procure military hardware from Russia.The Trump administration, however, remained non-committal on CAATSA, saying that the deal itself had no provision for exemptions for India or any other particular country entering into a defense deal with Russia.
His administration has even warned its allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russia that risk triggering sanctions, according to a State Department spokesperson who was speaking to the Indian daily the Hindu last year.
Meanwhile, Washington is seeking to expand ties with New Delhi, but India’s relations with Russia have always been an issue for the US.
US officials have previously met with Indian officials in New Delhi to discuss a military-communications agreement that would boost the interoperability of US and Indian armed forces.
But India refused to sign the logistics agreement, known as Comcasa, with the US in 2016.
At the same time, India signed a deal with Russia to lease a Russian-made nuclear submarine, to purchase four Russian frigates, the advanced S-400 air-defense missile system, and to set up a joint venture with a Russian firm to produce military helicopters.
India has also bought $15 billion worth of US arms since 2008.