Amid U.S. threat, India, Russia set to sign three major deals

As Putin lands in Delhi, all eyes are on crucial pact for S-400 missile systems
Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Delhi on Thursday for the annual India-Russia summit which could see the signing of military deals totalling close to $10 billion; a 24-hour visit that could have lasting implications for the India-U.S. relationship as well. On Friday, India and Russia are expected to conclude three major military deals: for five S-400 missile systems estimated to cost about Rs. 39,000 crore (more than $5 billion), four stealth frigates and a deal for Ak-103 assault rifles to be manufactured in India. The U.S. has warned that the deals could attract sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) law that restricts defence purchases from Russia, Iran and North Korea. India has been in negotiations with the U.S. administration for a “sanctions waiver”, but American officials have given no clear signal they will provide one. Last month, Donald Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on China as it started taking delivery of Su-35 jets and S-400 systems.
Tightrope walk
The breadth of agreements, including the S-400 deal, during Mr. Putin’s visit is seen as a reiteration of India’s desire for “strategic autonomy” that was highlighted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech this year. It comes a month after the inaugural 2+2 dialogue with the U.S., in which India signed the third foundational agreement — Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) — in addition to announcing several measures to operationalise the Major Defence Partner status, indicative of the difficult balance India hopes to maintain amid deepening U.S.-Russia tensions. Mr. Putin and Mr. Modi will meet on Friday for a “working breakfast” followed by delegation-level talks. They are expected to witness the signing of at least 23 agreements, an official said, including a major pact on space cooperation and an MoU for road transport.
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