US, Chinese unease as Putin visits India to sign arms deals

Serbian president arrives in Moscow after Kosovo border crisis

Serbian president arrives in Moscow after Kosovo border crisis

Putin, accompanied by top officials including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Modi are due to meet at 11am (1.30pm, Singapore time).

President Vladimir Putin was expected Friday (Oct 5) to sign a deal in India worth more than US$5 billion for the S-400 air defence system, despite USA warnings of sanctions against countries buying Russian military hardware.

"Putin's visit to India will be watched closely not just by Washington, but probably also by Beijing".

Putin, along with Modi, will hold the 19th India-Russia annual bilateral summit during which they are expected to review bilateral defence cooperation in the wake of the USA sanctions against Russian defence majors. US' stand effectively means that any country that engages in defence or intelligence sharing with Russian Federation could also be subject to sanctions. The Modi government hopes the Trump administration will not disrupt burgeoning defence ties with the world's biggest arm importer by levying sanctions the U.S. Congress has sought.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) also noted that the India-Russia agreement had raised eyebrows in both the United States and China. That is a condition for a waiver on CAATSA, a provision written into the otherwise inflexible law by sustained diplomacy by the Trump administration.

The Trump administration has passed the CAATSA law under which sanctions will be imposed on countries having significant defence cooperation with Russian Federation, in an attempt to curb Russia's arms sales.

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New Delhi is expected to request a special waiver from the US for the purchase, but it remains unclear whether the Trump administration, which believes the S-400 could access sensitive military technology, will accede.

Last month Washington slapped financial sanctions on the Chinese military for buying Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets - and the S-400. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters India was closing in on the deal to buy the air defence system from Russian Federation, with which it has long-standing military ties. Modi's government, caught in the U.S. -Russia crossfire, hopes the Trump administration will give it a pass on the proposed arms transfer from Russian Federation, officials in New Delhi said.

What is less known is that Mattis and Pompeo spent over an hour with NSA Ajit Doval for a deeper conversation on two contentious issues - imports of Iranian oil post sanctions that will kick in from November 4, and the S-400 from Russian Federation.

New Delhi also wants to show that its defence needs can not be subjected to the whims and fancies of another country. "Negotiation on S-400 air defence systems has been on for a long while and it is at a stage where it can be finalised", Sitharaman said last week.

"We urge all of our allies and partners to forgo transactions with Russian Federation that would trigger sanctions under CAATSA", a State Department spokesperson said on Wednesday when asked about India's plan to purchase multi-billion S-400 missile defence system from Russian Federation. During the summit, Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to review bilateral defence cooperation.

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