Days ahead of the US defence secretary’s visit to India, Robert Menendez (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with 20 other senators, has urged Lloyd J. Austin to raise the issue of the planned purchase of S-400 air missile defence systems during his scheduled meeting with Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday.
In a two-page letter released on Wednesday, the senator expects that Austin will raise the US administration’s opposition to India’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence systems, “which threatens future U.S.-India defense cooperation and puts India at risk of sanctions under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)”.
During the visit, India and the US will discuss ways to operationalise the major defence partnership that the two countries have signed, according to a top Pentagon official. This is the first time that a US defence secretary is travelling to India on his maiden overseas trip.
“If India chooses to go forward with its purchase of the S-400, that act will clearly constitute a significant, and therefore sanctionable, transaction with the Russian defense sector under Section 231 of CAATSA. It will also limit India’s ability to work with the U.S. on development and procurement of sensitive military technology”, the letter written by the senator reads.
Robert Menendez, who raised the ongoing Indian farmers’ protests in the Senate last month, also urged Austin to take up the issues of human rights and democratic values while discussing the growing bilateral partnership during his India visit.
Meanwhile, unfazed by the threat of US sanctions, a team of nearly 100 officers and airmen is currently receiving training for use and maintenance of the massive systems in Russia.
With the deliveries set to begin in September, the first S-400 squadron is expected to become operational in India by the end of this year or the beginning of next year, Defence Ministry officials said in January.
The S-400s can detect, track, and destroy hostile strategic bombers, jets, spy planes, missiles, and drones at a range of 400 km.