India downplays new US ties in talks with Russia
A top Indian general downplayed the significance of his countryâs relationship with the United States while talking to Russian officials on Sunday, despite major recent defense agreement between the worldâs two largest democracies.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat cited last weekâs decision to proceed with the purchase of Russiaâs S-400 anti-aircraft system, despite U.S. sanctions on Russiaâs defense industry, as evidence of Indiaâs independence from American foreign policy wishes. The remarks come just weeks after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signed a landmark agreement to enhance cooperation on regional defense issues.
âWhen Russians asked about the American sanctions, my reply was, âyes, we do appreciate that there could be sanctions on us, but we follow an independent policy,ââ Rawat said during a speech. âYou c an rest assured. While we may be associating with America in getting some technology ... we follow an independent policy.â
Kremlin-run media touted his remarks on Sunday, as U.S. sanctions on Moscowâs defense sector have been a bone of contention ever since Congress imposed the measures as punishment for the 2016 election interference.
âThere's a legacy of the relationship between Russia and India,â Rajen Hershe, an international relations professor based in New Delhi, told Sputnik News in a recent interview. âIt used to be the Soviet Union, now it's Russia. ... Russia still supplies 60 percent of the equipment that India buys, so it's a very important defense-related partner as far as India is concerned.â
U.S. officials are working to wean India off of Russian weapons with an eye toward a long-term relationship to bracket Chinaâs rise in the Indo-Pacific region. The two side s agreed last month to grant India access to some of the most sensitive U.S. military and intelligence technology, with a particular eye toward maritime security as China bolsters its navy.
âWe know the threats to stability that exist in the region, and the United States seeks to ensure that both of our peoples can live in peace and in freedom,â Pompeo said during the Sept. 6 dialogue.
Pompeo sidestepped questions about the prospective S-400 purchase at the time, while Mattis lobbied Congress successfully for the authority to grant waivers that might protect India from the 2017 sanctions law. But U.S. officials have taken a hard line on other S-400 purchases. President Trumpâs administration imposed sanctions on a Chinese military unit that purchased the weapons, and the State Department has worried openly that Turkeyâs prospective purchase of the anti-aircraft weapons could lead to Russia gaining valuable intelligence on how to target A mericaâs most advanced stealth fighter jets.
âThey will certainly come up, but I donât think theyâll be the primary focus of what it is weâre trying to accomplish here,â Pompeo last month while discussing Indian arms deal with Russia. âThis set of meetings ... theyâre really about things that are big and strategic and will go on for 20, 40, 50 years."Source: Google News Russia | Netizen 24 Russia