Trump hints at punitive action against India for buying S-400 from Russia

India may not get presidential waiver from the US for its S-400 missile defence system deal with Russia. US President Donald Trump has indicated some punitive action against India for S-400 deal with Russia. The deal was signed last week during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India.

Trump's assertion has come in contrast with the statements earlier given by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis.

The US has imposed a ban on the purchase of arms from Russia under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) passed by the US Congress last year. The sanctions were imposed as a measure to penalise Russia for annexing Crimea from Ukraine.

India defied the threat of US sanctions in going ahead to strike a deal with Russia at a meeting between President Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There was speculation that the US would give presidential waiver to India for the purchase of S-400 missile defence system.

Under the CAATSA law, only President Trump has the power to give a waiver. But during an interaction with journalists at the White House yesterday, Donald Trump said India would find out what action the US took against it for defence deal with Russia "sooner than you think".

This was the first reaction from US President Donald Trump since India and Russia signed S-400 deal. This was also the first instance when Donald Trump spoke publicly on CAATSA sanctions.

"India is going to find out, aren't they," Donald Trump said while responding to a question about India-Russia S-400 deal.

Asked about the timing of US decision on India-Russia deal, Trump said, "You will seesooner than you think."

Donald Trump's comments came in sharp contrast to earlier remarks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis. Both had argued for a waiver to India. Mattis had testified before a Congress committee favouring a waiver as the US views India a key ally to counter the growing stature of China in regional and global strategic affairs.

However, White House officials were reported to have argued that the presidential waiver was for the purchase of spare parts of the defence equipment already procured by countries from Russia. They also cited the example of China.

Earlier, China became the first country to be sanctioned under CAASTA for its purchase of S-400 missile defence system. The US has imposed the Equipment Development Department (EDD). It works under China's Central Military Commission headed by President Xi Jinping. The EDD is responsible for procurement of defence equipment for China from other countries.

The China example being cited by the White House officials and the comments of President Donald Trump suggest that the US has changed its stand on extending a waiver to India for S-400 deal. US embassy in New Delhi had also said previously that the CAATSA was aimed at penalising Russia and not meant to hamper the military capabilities of the allies.

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