NEW DELHI: Defying the possibility of US sanctions, India inked the agreement to buy the S-400 air defence missile system from Russia during President Vladimir Putin’s annual summit with PM Narendra Modi here on Friday.
However, the $5.5-billion deal was not among the eight agreements exchanged by the two sides after the summit meeting at Hyderabad House, nor was it mentioned in the brief statements by the two leaders, leading to much consternation among journalists. State-run Doordarshan even hinted the deal may have been delayed due to final touches and last-minute concerns about CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).
That the deal had been signed was finally made public in paragraph 45 of the 68-para, 5,500-word joint statement released after the meeting, titled ‘Russia-India: Reliable partnership in a changing world’.
“The (two) sides welcomed the conclusion of the contract for the supply of the S-400 Long Range Surface to Air Missile System to India,” said the curt sentence.
In a guarded response, a US embassy spokesperson was quoted as saying that “CAATSA is not intended to impose damage to the military capabilities of our allies or partners.” However, “the waiver authority is not for a blanket waiver. It is transaction-specific. There are strict criteria for considering a waiver”, the spokesperson warned.
Putin, who arrived on Friday evening, had a three-hour private dinner meeting with PM Modi at his residence, during which the two leaders reportedly discussed various ways to step up engagement between the two nations.
Reportedly following a Russian request, Putin skipped the traditional welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan and the subsequent trip to Raj Ghat to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi. “This dispensing of formalities actually shows the level of comfort between the two leaders,” a senior source said.
According to the source, the restricted dialogue between the two leaders before the delegation level talks was supposed to last for half an hour, but was extended by almost an hour. During the meeting, the two leaders agreed to more to enhance bilateral trade.
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