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Defence: Rush To Russia!

India has strengthened its defence system! The Narendra Modi government in New Delhi – defying the threat of US sanctions – signed a contract with Russia on October 5 on the basis of which it would receive five S-400 Triumf missile defence systems from Moscow. Soon after the deal was signed in the Indian capital, the South Asian nation claimed that the agreement would certainly bolster its shield against possible air attacks from neighbouring Pakistan and China. This kind of defence treaty between New Delhi and Moscow throws a strong challenge to the Donald Trump administration, which had warned India not to sign such accord with Kremlin. No one could imagine that India would disregard the US threat of applying sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and signed the USD 5 billion defence deal with old friend Russia. Undoubtedly, the move helps India enjoy an advantage over neighbouring countries as far as the national security is concerned.

In fact, the two countries signed 20 agreements on Friday in the presence of President Putin, Russian Deputy PM Yury Borisov, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov.
Earlier on Thursday night, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj received President Putin and other members of the Russian delegation at the airport. From the airport, the visiting president went straight to the residence of Prime Minister Modi and the two leaders discussed various bilateral and global issues during a one-on-one dinner that lasted for three hours! Later, the Indian news agencies reported that an Indian monitoring station would be built in southern Russian city of Novosibirsk.

President Putin & PM Modi

The Indian diplomats and defence experts believe that it has become important for New Delhi to acquire this missile defence system for various reasons. Firstly, such an air defence system could protect the Indian territories from possible Chinese and Pakistani aggression. China, too, recently acquired the S-400 system from Russia, ignoring the US sanctions.
Secondly, India’s proximity with the US has brought Russia, China and Pakistan closer in recent times. As the Trump administration put Islamabad under tremendous diplomatic pressure over the terror issue, Pakistan has struck a naval deal with Russia. The changing regional political landscape has prompted India to break the equation and to strengthen ties with good old friend Russia. Prime Minister Modi’s friendship with President Putin at personal level has made the move easier for India.
Earlier this year, Russia helped India become the full member of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), a Eurasian political, economic and security alliance. Kremlin is also backing India’s long-standing demand for the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Even, Moscow wants India to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), despite China’s strong opposition.

Thirdly, the US wants to counter China’s growing influence in Asia and in Asia-Pacific region jointly with India. The Trump administration recently advised New Delhi not to purchase defence equipment from Russia and crude oil from Iran. However, India has decided not to bow to the US pressure and to increase its bargaining capacity by maintaining friendly ties with both Iran and Russia. In this context, the Modi government has signed the historic deal with Russia.
In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said that New Delhi might also acquire Krivak-class frigate warships and KA-226 helicopters from Moscow in the coming days. The two countries also signed a pact to build six more nuclear reactors at a new site in Kudankulam nuclear plant in India. Space co-operation is another big thing between India and Russia, as Kremlin agreed to assist India’s enterprise for a manned spaceflight by 2022. It was one of eight agreements signed between the two sides on October 5. “The next goal in our space journey is to send an Indian astronaut in Gaganyaan. I am very happy that you have assured full co-operation of Russia in this mission,” the Indian premier told the Russian president during the joint press conference.

The plan for the India-US joint military exercise (to be held in 2019) has already been announced. Washington has also agreed to exchange emergency and sensitive military information with New Delhi. In such a situation, the Trump administration is closely monitoring President Putin’s ongoing trip to India. Interestingly, Washington softened its stand soon after India and Russia struck the deal. The US government said in a statement that the CAATSA would not harm any friendly nation.
It seems that the S-400 deal will be a game changer, as it will help maintain political (as well as diplomatic) balance (and the status quo) in South Asia!

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