Global Ramifications of the Russia-India Defence Deal 2018

Sub Title : Analyses of strategic ramifications of the Triumf deal

Issues Details : Vol.11 Issue Nov/ Dec 2018

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Category : Geostrategy

: April 12, 2019

For several months prior to the finalising of the defence deal that was signed in New Delhi on 4 October 2018 there were apprehensions in several quarters whether the deal would be signed or not. The threat of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) loomed large. In a sense it still does. Nevertheless, both countries took the bull by the horn as the saying goes and the deal was signed. The purchase of the S 400 Triumf air defence missile systems has been affected and delivery will start around 2021-22 as per current estimates. After signing the deal both sides played it down. No fanfare and no mention referring to it in the joint statement.

It could not have been more low-key. Earlier the government had conveyed to the US that it respects intellectual property rights and adheres to the contracts linked with other countries. To convey both its concerns and the fact that India was obliged to sign the deal with Russians several high-level visits had taken place.

The apprehensions of the government of India prior to the signing have been discussed in the media and various quarters since long. These reached a higher pitch in the build up to the 2-plus-2 meeting in New Delhi between US
The Triumf System will be a game changer for India maj gen VINOD SAIGHAL Global ramifications of the india russia defence deal India’s signing of a deal with Russia in October 2018 for procurement of the S400 Triumf
Air Defence System comes in the backdrop of the grain of the growing Indo-US defence relations and in spite of US cautions. An analyses of several global and regional geo-political and geostrategic ramifications for both India and Russia, with emphasis on the significance of the ‘China factor’ on both nations.

Nov-Dec 29 SOUTH ASIA DEFENCE & STRATEGIC REVIEW Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis on the US side and ministers Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman the foreign
and defence ministers on the Indian side. As reported the negotiations and signing went off smoothly. Among
other aspects India was keen for access leading-edge US technologies in the defence, space and allied fields.

These should be forthcoming in the coming years all things being equal. However, it has to be appreciated that as in the past there are going to be protracted and often frustrating negotiations before transfers actually take place with several conditionalities that India will find difficult to agree to leading to further negotiations and waivers. During the 2-plus-2 talks the question of India purchasing the Russian S 400 Triumf missiles would certainly have come up with the Indian side forcefully putting across  their pleas about the long-standing defence relationship with Russia and the fact that the negotiations had begun far earlier and hence CAATSA  waiver should not be made applicable
. The growing closeness of the USIndia strategic relationship would be a major factor in the waiver. Iran would
have also been referred to. However, this paper limits itself to the Russian deal and its wider ramifications that
impact many players in the global arena.
The dilemma that India facedwas that had it acceded to the US request to not negotiate the deal with Russia and being promised in turn impressive sweeteners of US hightech as well as latest systems similar to the Russian one. Going through with the Russian deal would have unforeseen consequences for the country should the US decide to turn its back on several other key militaryrelated deliveries in the pipeline as a consequence. It was not an easy
decision for the Prime Minister having realized that reneging on the Russian deal under US pressure would considerably lower India’s image in the region and its partners and friends around the world. It would have been
a setback from which India would not have recovered for a long time.

Most importantly, India’s decade long strategic bonds with Russia would have been sundered. Hardly any country would have trusted India as a reliable partner hereafter. Even countries very close to India like Japan and Vietnam would have had second thoughts. While the difficulties are not yet over, India’s standing in the region and beyond has gone up. The countries around India feel reassured, more so in the subcontinent. A few of them attempting to play off one country against other will become more cautious.

While several aspects geopolitical and economic would have been considered by the Prime Minister, in the coming years the key consideration would have been the dilemma that the US was facing with regard to India should it decide to go ahead with the deal with Russia. President Trump has already severely mauled it close allies and put on
notice practically every major country and player in the world. India was the only major country remaining.
Treating India in the same manner seeing its size and importance in the world would have isolated the US to
the extent that many in Washington would have been alarmed, to put it mildly. That will hold true for the
foreseeable future. Both the US and India realize that the relationship that has been maturing over the years is
extremely important to both.

Having dealt with the aspect from the lens of Washington and New Delhi it needs to be remembered that the
third party that was the reason for the concerns highlighted above, Russia  was viewing the developments with
as equal concern as India. For Russia the deal was no less important than India*. In the last decade or so and
especially after the seizing of Crimea