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

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.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 15 min 4 sec ago

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

 Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

 Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

 The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

 Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

 Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

 The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

 “Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

 “So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

 Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

 The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

 Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

 Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

 She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

 One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

 There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

 The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”