Washington and Delhi are completing preparations for the first ever meeting of heads of US and Indian defense and diplomatic departments in the "two plus two" format. Dialogue, scheduled for early July, promises to be difficult. Washington is dissatisfied with the defense cooperation between Moscow and Delhi and warns that the purchase of Russian arms by India may entail the imposition of sanctions against this country. Given that Russia remains India's main military technical partner, US pressure is becoming a critical test for Moscow and Delhi. As the Indian media reported yesterday, the parties are already studying ways to neutralize possible anti-Russian sanctions of the United States, one of which may be the transition to settlements in national currencies in the sphere of military-technical cooperation.
Scheduled for July 6, US-Indian negotiations in the "two plus two" format will be held in Washington one year after the visit of Narendra Modi in the US where he first met with President Donald Trump and reached a number of breakthrough agreements relating to defense cooperation with Washington. The partners of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will be Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman. These two women will "keep a blow" on increasingly sensitive issues of military-technical cooperation. Numerous leaks and statements by US officials testify to the growing discontent in Washington over India's defense ties with Russia, its main partner in the field of military-technical cooperation.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 2013-2017, Moscow accounted for 62% of total arms imports in New Delhi. Some Russian experts emphasize that more than 70% of weapons and military equipment in India are of Russian and Soviet manufacture. Every year the Russian Federation supplies weapons and equipment to India for several billion dollars. So, last year the supply of spare parts for T-72 tanks, AL-31FP aircraft engines and 125mm Mango sub-caliber projectiles continued, Mi-17V-1 helicopters (ten cars) were repaired, and MiG-29 fighters were also upgraded to the level of the MiG-29UPG. But recently, problems have also manifested themselves, Kommersant sources say in the Russian military-industrial complex: in 2017, no major contract was signed with India.
The fact that the major new deals between Moscow and Delhi, actively discussed at various levels, do not fit into the US-Indian defense partnership, said William Thornberry, Chairman of the Armed Forces Committee of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, who visited Delhi on May 28. He warned that the planned purchases of Russian S-400 Triumph air defense missile systems (the cost of the contract is estimated at about $ 6 billion) could negatively affect the military-technical cooperation with the United States. "Both in the US administration and in the Congress are very concerned about this issue," Mr. Thornberry told the Indian television channel NDTV. "It's not just in India that wants to make this deal. If any country gets this system, it will complicate our interaction with it, "the congressman added.
"It is very likely that Trump's administration does not want to spoil relations with India, especially given that relations between the two countries are on the rise. However, not everything depends on the team of the White House and personally President Trump, "said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies." There is also Congress, as well as laws such as "Countering America's opponents through sanctions" (CAATSA) . This law, which came into force in January, can be used to punish foreign companies that continue defense cooperation with Russia, Iran and the DPRK - the states of the American "axis of evil."
According to Mr. Pukhov, this issue will be one of the priorities at the talks in Washington. "The Indian side will be tried to inspire one key idea: why do you need a politically problematic Russian weapon, such as the S-400, which can lead to major troubles. Buy not Russian, but American weapons - not the S-400, but the Patriot system, "continues Ruslan Pukhov.
The visit to Delhi by William Thornberry, who flew in to warn the Indian side about the possible consequences of continuing military-technical cooperation with Russia, took place immediately after the informal summit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, held in Sochi on May 22. Answering the question whether the issue of India's S-400 systems was discussed at the talks, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for President Putin, said that "the topic of military-technical cooperation was on the agenda of the talks." Earlier, Dmitry Shugaev, head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of the Russian Federation, told Interfax: the contract for the delivery of India to the S-400 can be signed during 2018. And after the summit in Sochi, the Indian Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran, recently appointed deputy national security adviser, responding to a question about the possibility of signing an agreement on the S-400 deliveries before the end of this year, told TASS that "the parties made significant progress in negotiations ".
"Talks in Washington in the" two plus two "format are very important for India, since they confirm its status as a great power. However, at the same time, India does not want to be tried to put it before a tough choice - the US or Russia. We consider this approach to be unproductive, "Nandan Unnikrishnan, vice-president of the Observer Research Foundation (Delhi), explained to Kommersant. And he added: "Whatever the pressure of the US, Delhi will not agree to any concessions in matters of national security."
"In the case of India, the potential for the use of US sanctions is very limited, given that the country depends on Russia in servicing and upgrading a huge fleet of previously supplied weapons, and is also zealously pursuing a policy of maintaining strategic autonomy in the procurement of weapons," explains the Indian party's chief scientist HSE Vasily Kashin. In addition, the Indians understand that their military-technical cooperation with Russia plays a deterrent role in relation to cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. The removal of brakes on the path of the development of the Russian-Pakistani military-technical cooperation can have far-reaching consequences for them. " According to the expert, "in general, the US sanctions on the supply of weapons from Russia are ineffective." As examples, he called contracts for the supply of Su-35 to Indonesia and S-400 to Turkey. "Sanctions lead to more complicated settlement systems, additional transaction costs and the use of barter, as in the case of Indonesia, but rarely lead to a breakdown of transactions," Mr. Kashin sums up.
In turn, Moscow, as Kommersant has told a source in the Russian military-industrial complex, despite the US pressure, is confident in the Indian partner: at the last informal meeting on the S-400, the Indian side assured that "this is already a settled issue." "The Indians could not do otherwise," Kommersant's source added. "China has the S-400, so the Patriot Delhi will not work, because the American system is much weaker."
Anyway, the anti-Russian restrictive measures on the part of the United States are already touching on those who cooperate with Moscow in the sphere of military-technical cooperation. So far, all deals in this area have been concluded by Moscow and Delhi in dollars. But there was a problem with banks through which transactions could be conducted: Indian structures are afraid of falling into American black lists and freezing payments. Under such a frost, as of yesterday, the Indian newspaper The Economic Times reported that more than $ 2 billion in total already fell into this sum. As noted by journalists, this amount includes financing of "critically important projects", such as repair of the nuclear submarine transferred to the Indian side in leasing Chakra.
As a result, according to the sources of The Economic Times, Moscow and Delhi are now considering the possibility that settlements in the MTC sphere should no longer be in dollars, but in rubles and rupees at a rate tied to the international currency, for example, the Singapore dollar. Officially, the parties have not yet commented on this information.