New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Monday asserted that sourcing of military equipment from any country is India’s sovereign right, apparently referring to New Delhi’s recent proposal to buy a Russian missile system in the face of US warning of sanctions.
On a visit to Washington, Jaishankar said India was discussing the U.S. concerns but declined to forecast the ultimate decision on the fate of the S-400 missile purchase from Russia. “We have always maintained that what we buy – the sourcing of the military equipment – is very much a sovereign right”, he told the media ahead of a 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. That freedom of choice is ours and we think it’s in everybody’s interest to recognize that”.
Being termed as a good friend of Russia, India last year agreed to buy five S-400 systems for $5.2 billion and Moscow said that the delivery is on track.
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) Law 2017, the United States imposes sanctions against countries over major arms purchase from Russia due to Moscow’s military involvement in the Ukraine and Syria and allegedly intervening in the U.S. elections.
Though undaunted, Turkey, a NATO ally, in June enraged the U.S by also going ahead with an S-400 purchase. U.S. President Donald Trump responded by ending Turkey’s involvement in the F-35 fighter jet program but has yet to announce other sanctions.
Jaishankar hailed warm relations overall with the U.S but underlined India’s differences with Trump’s combative stance on Iran.
The U.S has threatened sanctions to force all countries to stop buying oil from Iran as it seeks to curb the clerical regime’s influence in the Middle East.
In May, the Trump Administration ended waivers for countries including India, formerly a leading customer of Iranian oil. “We view Iran from the east, and from the east Iran has been a very stable, status quo power,” Jaishankar said.
For India, “we’ve been repeatedly assured that the affordable and predictable access to energy will not change”, he said, declining to comment further on discussions on Iran.
India has been teaming up to expand Iran’s Chabahar port, a way to ensure a supply route to Afghanistan that bypasses Pakistan.