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.


Thunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos

Updated 21 January 2020

Thunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos

  • Business leaders are likely to be concerned by the state of the global economy
  • The IMF cut its global growth estimate for 2020 to 3.3 percent

DAVOS: Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg on Tuesday slammed the business elite for doing “basically nothing” on climate change, as the Davos forum braced for an address from US President Donald Trump hours before his impeachment trial begins.

The 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss Alps resort got under way seeking to thrash out dangers to both the environment and economy from the heating of the planet.

Trump, who has repeatedly expressed skepticism about climate change, is set to give the first keynote address of Davos 2020, on the same day as his impeachment trial opens at the Senate in Washington.

Before his appearance, Thunberg underlined the message that has inspired millions around the world, saying “basically nothing has been done” to fight climate change.

“It will require much more than this. This is just the very beginning,” the 17-year-old said.

Speaking calmly and with a wry smile, Thunberg acknowledged that her campaign which began with school strikes had attracted huge attention without yet achieving concrete change.

“There is a difference between being heard to actually leading to something,” she said.

“I am not the person who should complain about not being heard,” she said to appreciative laughter.

“I am being heard all the time. But the science and the voice of the young people are not at the center of the conversation.”

While the WEF and individual business leaders have been detailing their own concerns about climate change, Greenpeace complained in a new report that some of the world’s biggest banks, insurers and pension funds have collectively invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2016.

“Pretty much nothing has been done as global Co2 emissions have not been reduced. And that is of course what we are trying to achieve,” said Thunberg.

There are no expectations that Trump and Thunberg, who have exchanged barbs through Twitter, will actually meet, but the crowded venue and intense schedule mean a chance encounter cannot be ruled out.

When Trump and his entourage walked through UN headquarters last year at the annual General Assembly, a photo of the teenager staring in apparent fury at the president from the sidelines went viral.

Tweeting before arriving in Davos aboard his Marine One helicopter, Trump appeared in bullish mood, writing he would “bring Good Policy and additional Hundreds of Billions of Dollars back to the United States of America!”

Although Trump’s Republican party holds a majority in the Senate and is almost sure to acquit him on charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress, the impeachment adds volatility to an already tense 2020 presidential election.

Sustainability is the buzzword at the Davos forum, which began in 1971, with heel crampons handed out to participants to encourage them to walk on the icy streets rather than use cars, and the signage paint made out of seaweed.

Trump’s opposition to renewable energy, his withdrawal from the Paris accord negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, and the free hand extended to the fossil fuel industry puts him at odds with this year’s thrust of the event.

“People are playing a lot more attention to” climate, Eurasia Group president Ian Bremner told AFP at Davos, adding there was “genuine action by some big players,” after investment titan BlackRock said it was partially divesting out of coal.

“But let’s be clear — a big part of this is because we failed for a very long time and governments continue to fail,” he added.

Business leaders are likely also to be concerned by the state of the global economy whose prospects, according to the International Monetary Fund, have improved but remain brittle.

The IMF cut its global growth estimate for 2020 to 3.3 percent, saying that a recent truce in the trade war between China and the US had brought some stability but that risks remained.

“We are already seeing some tentative signs of stabilization but we have not reached a turning point yet,” said IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva.

Activists meanwhile will be pressing for much more concrete action to fight inequality, after Oxfam issued a report outlining how the number of billionaires has doubled in the past decade and the world’s 22 richest men now have more wealth than all the women in Africa.