India hopes to avoid US sanctions over Russian missile deal

Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India is hopeful it will avoid US sanctions over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system. (AFP)
Updated 13 April 2019
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India hopes to avoid US sanctions over Russian missile deal

  • New Delhi has been “heard and understood” by the US administration over its accord to buy the S-400 missile defense system for $5.2 billion
  • Narendra Modi made the deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin in October, defying US warnings of sanctions

NEW DELHI: India is hopeful it will avoid US sanctions over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told AFP.
New Delhi has been “heard and understood” by the US administration over its accord to buy the S-400 missile defense system for $5.2 billion, the minister said in an interview this week.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin in October, defying US warnings of sanctions on countries buying Russian military equipment. The sanctions were part of measures to punish Moscow for its actions in Ukraine in 2014.
President Donald Trump’s administration imposed sanctions on China’s military last year over Beijing’s purchase of the S-400 and other military hardware.
It has also warned NATO member Turkey of sanctions for buying the S-400, and has suspended Turkey’s participation in a US jet program.
Sitharaman told AFP that Washington has taken on board that India, bordering both Pakistan and China, needed arms from Russia, and others, to remain a “strong partner.”
Negotiations with Moscow, a longstanding supplier to India’s military, on the S-400 began before the US sanctions were introduced, she said.
“In the case of S-400 we have explained ourselves well... That has been heard and understood,” Sitharaman said. “They have appreciated the point of view put forward.”
Asked if she was confident that India would avoid sanctions, Sitharaman said: “Yes I hope so.”

Before the deal was inked, Washington poured cold water on India’s efforts to obtain a waiver from the US Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
Upgrades in arms systems “including the S-400 air and missile defense system” would be a particular focus for CAATSA, a US State Department spokesperson was quoted as saying by India’s PTI news agency.
But Randall Schriver, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, told a hearing in March that Washington wanted to “work through” the problem, calling India “an important emerging strategic partner.”
He added however that India’s contract with Russia has not been completed and that the US was “very keen to see (India) make an alternative choice (to the S-400) and we are working with them to provide potential alternatives.”

Washington is in a tricky position with India. It wants to bolster ties with the Asian giant to counter China’s assertiveness, a trend which has also rattled New Delhi.
In 2017 India and China had a military standoff over a Himalayan plateau claimed by both Beijing and Bhutan, a close ally of India.
Since then China and India have sought to patch up relations, including at a meeting between Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan, China in April 2018.
“Sometimes there are differences and you have a face-off,” Sitharaman said. “But our attempt, particularly after the prime minister’s Wuhan meet with the Chinese president, our attempt has been that these differences... cannot be allowed to become disputes.”
But China has also made inroads in Sri Lanka and the Maldives — countries that India considers to be in its sphere of influence — through its One Belt, One Road Initiative (OBOR), also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
India has particular concerns about a series of projects passing through Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a disputed territory which was the fuse for a new military flare-up between Pakistan and India in February.
China has also blocked efforts to put on a UN sanctions blacklist the leader of a Pakistan-based militant group that claimed a suicide bombing in India-administered Kashmir on February 14 that killed 40 Indian paramilitary troops.
New Delhi has reportedly declined a Chinese invitation to take part in an OBOR forum in China later this month.
“Areas which are ours legally, which are under illegal occupation of Pakistan, are the ones which are becoming part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,” Sitharaman said.
“So having made that position very clear, we have not participated in anything to do with OBOR, and we stick to that position,” she said.


More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

Updated 24 April 2019
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More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

  • Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday
  • The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban

DURBAN: At least 60 people have been killed and more than 1,000 have fled their homes after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides along South Africa’s eastern coast, authorities said on Wednesday.
Most of the deaths were in KwaZulu-Natal province. Flooding also killed at least three people in neighboring Eastern Cape province, state broadcaster SABC said.
The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban. Multiple dwellings collapsed in mudslides, said Robert McKenzie, a KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday.
Victor da Silva, a resident of the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, said his family managed to evacuate before the floods destroyed their home and cars.
“On Monday, the water was just crazy. And yesterday morning I got here, everything was fine, my garage was still here, the other part of the house was still here, and it just couldn’t stop raining,” Da Silva said. “And then an hour and a half later, everything poof (vanished) because the rain just hasn’t stopped.
Authorities in southern Tanzania ordered evacuations of residents from low-lying areas and the closure of schools and offices ahead of landfall of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth on neighboring Mozambique’s coast on Thursday.
“We’ve decided to evacuate all residents of valleys and other low-lying areas and we advise them to seek refuge at public spaces,” Mtwara regional commissioner Gelasius Byakanwa, told reporters.
Johan Fourie said he fled his home in Amanzimtoti, Kwazulu-Natal, just before part of it collapsed.
“I nearly lost my life, and my neighbor, I believe, is in hospital,” Fourie told eNCA television.
The region had been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not foresee the extent of the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result, there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said.
Some people were swept away by the water, he added.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday and was expected in the Eastern Cape in the next few days.
“This is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it,” he said.
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.