The United States is warning India against purchasing significant Russian weapons like advanced anti-aircraft systems or fighter jets as they may impede its defence cooperation with the West, US Assistant Secretary of State Clarke Cooper told reporters.
“The key point that has been shared with Indian counterparts… is: ‘Don’t put at risk future opportunities that may be impeded by significant Russian defence articles’”, Cooper said during an online briefing. “It’s not everything, but something like the [anti-aircraft systems] S-400 will be a challenge, something like the Sukhoi [fighter jet]Su-35 will be a challenge”.
Cooper said that Russian arms may not be interoperable with Western systems and pose threats of “potential exploitation of unique US technologies”. In conveying this message, the US, however, acknowledges that long-standing defence ties between Russia and India are not “a light switch to turn on and off”, adding that it doesn’t want “to put at risk India’s sovereignty or India’s national defence”.
The US is the second-largest defence exporter to India with sales reaching now $15 billion from near zero in 2008. The United States has designated India as a Major Defence Partner and granted Strategic Trade Authorization Tier 1 status, which allows it to receive license-free access to a wide range of military and dual-use technologies.
It has repeatedly criticized India’s military procurement with Russia, its largest arms supplier, and even attempted to prevent the purchase of the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. Both countries defied threats of sanctions and in 2018 signed a contract worth more than $5 billion.