New Delhi: Notwithstanding pressures from the United States, the much-awaited $5.2 billion S-400 air defence system deal between India and Russia is still on track.
“I didn’t see any changes from our Indian partners and friends… ..We did not discuss statements from the USA. We have a governmental committee on military-technical cooperation that has its own plans,” said Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters here in presence of External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar.
The decision to stick to the India-Russia military deal has remained on track on the backdrop of the new US administration under Joe Biden has decided to continue with the Donald Trump-era policy of imposing Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Russia or any other country that would buy armaments from some listed countries.
Days ahead of the high-profile visit of US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to India in March, Senator Robert Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had written a letter to Austin, urging him to take up with Indian leaders the issue of New Delhi procuring Russian S-400 missile defence system.
In October 2018, India inked a deal pact with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 air defence missile systems braving against strong reservation from the Trump administration.
“We have an intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation. It has its plans, and this includes discussion of additional manufacturing of Russian military equipment on Indian territory,” the Russian Minister said.
“We discussed prospective and additional manufacturing of Russian military equipment in India within the concept ‘Make in India’,” he said.
Dr Jaishankar said the S-400s would be discussed at a meeting of Defence ministers later in the year.
“Much of our discussions today covered the preparations for President Putin’s visit for the Annual Summit later this year. I am sure Minister Lavrov would share my assessment that our bilateral cooperation remains energetic and forward looking. We talked about longstanding partnership in nuclear, space and defence sectors,” Dr Jaishankar said.
Lavrov’s visit was aimed at paving the way for the India-Russia Annual Summit for which Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit India.
The India-Russia Summit meet are held alternately in India and Russia. However, in 2020, the meet was cancelled perhaps due to Covid19. The Summit has been taking place regularly since 2000.
In his statement, Dr Jaishankar further said – “Time-tested is a frequently used and clearly justified description of India-Russia relations. Though the world has changed in the last seven decades and there have been different governments at both ends, our ties, I am sure Minister Lavrov would agree, have remained uniquely strong and steady”.
“….And the reason for that has been our consistent ability to identify and update our shared interests. We are both cognisant of the multi-polar and rebalanced nature of international relations today,” he said.