India has been looking to bolster its defence forces with the latest weapons systems and is in all likelihood going to finalise a deal with Russia to buy the medium and long-range anti-aircraft missile S-400 Triumf. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who was in Russia for a three-day tour, had met the country's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin on April 4 and reviewed the Military Technical Cooperation between the two countries. She also met Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov and discussed strategies to strengthen defence production cooperation between the two countries.
But the almost Rs 39,000 crore ($5.5 billion) deal to buy S-400 Triumf missile system, which is called SA-21 Growler by NATO, would also violate USA's sanctions against Russia. USA has been aggressive in expanding its defence related ties in recent times while India too is looking at other nations other than Russia for the latest weapons.
According to The New York Times, the deal is being finalised at a time when US President Donald Trump "is both weighing more extensive sanctions against Russia and trying to forge a military alliance with India". A report by The New York Times quoted geopolitical risk consulting firm Eurasia Group Asia director Shailesh Kumar as saying, "In the past few years you’ve seen a massive transition where more equipment is being bought from the US. That’s because the US wants a closer relationship with India, and defense deals are essentially diplomatic deals. My suspicion is that America will not deem the S-400 purchase as sanctions-worthy. There’s too much at stake for bilateral relations. If the US goes for sanctions, it will undermine the goodwill the US has been trying to build up with India over the last two decades."
India is planning to buy five S-400 Triumf systems. The missile system can track and target fighter jets, including stealth aircraft, and missiles too. It is capable of engaging up to 80 targets simultaneously at a distance of up to 400 km and an altitude of 30 km.
Russia has also signed deals with China and Turkey to supply the S-400 Triumf system. India may become the third country to receive the missile system.
Till the late 1990s India hardly bought any military hardware from the USA and was overwhelmingly dependent on the erstwhile USSR and later Russia for the latest weapons. India also bought fighter jets like Mirage 2000 from France and some arms from England even as USA remained an outsider. But in the last couple of decades, the USA and India have forged a close strategic partnership. Today, USA is India's second largest arms supplier behind Russia.