Jaishankar defends India’s right to buy Russian arms on US trip

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar | PTI

India’s External affairs minister S Jaishankar, on Monday (September 30), upheld India’s right to buy a missile defense system from Russia despite the threat of sanctions from the United States saying the sourcing of military equipment is a country’s sovereign right.

On his three-day visit to Washington, Jaishankar said India was discussing the US concerns but declined to forecast the ultimate decision on the fate of the S-400 purchase from Russia.

“We have always maintained that what we buy — the sourcing of military equipment — is very much a sovereign right,” he told reporters ahead of his meeting with secretary of state Mike Pompeo.”We would not like any state to tell us what to buy or not to buy from Russia any more than we would like any state to tell us to buy or not buy from America,” he added.

Jaishankar said that the freedom of choice lies with India and its in everybody’s interest to recognize that.

In 2018, India had agreed to buy five S-400 systems for $5.2 billion and Russia has said that delivery is on track.

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Under the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), the US has imposed sanctions against arms purchases from Russia, alleging Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine and Syria and alleged meddling in US elections.

Turkey, a NATO ally in June also went ahead with an S-400 purchase. The outraged US responded by ending Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 fighter jet program but is yet to impose furthur sanctions.

Jaishankar hailed warm relations overall with the United States but underlined India’s differences with Trump’s hawkish stance on Iran. “We view Iran from the east, and from the east Iran has been a very stable, status quo power,” Jaishankar said.

The United States has threatened sanctions to force all countries to stop buying oil from Iran as it seeks to curb the clerical regimes influence in the Middle East.

In May, the Trump administration ended waivers for countries including India, formerly a leading customer for Iranian oil.

For India, “we’ve been repeatedly assured that the affordable and predictable access to energy will not change,” he said, declining to comment on any further discussions on Iran.

(With inputs from agencies)