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.


Philippine, Kuwaiti officials meet amid labor ban

Updated 21 January 2020

Philippine, Kuwaiti officials meet amid labor ban

  • The meeting took place days after the Philippines announced a complete ban on the deployment of new workers to Kuwait

MANILA: Philippine and Kuwaiti officials on Sunday held talks in the wake of a ban imposed by Manila on Filipinos working in the Gulf state.

Abdullah D. Mama-o, President Rodrigo Duterte’s adviser on overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) concerns, met with Kuwait Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah to discuss bilateral ties and how to overcome the crisis.

The meeting took place days after the Philippines announced a complete ban on the deployment of new workers to Kuwait following the killing of Jeanelyn Villavende.

A forensic examination conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation on Villavende’s body showed “clear indications of sexual abuse,” and signs of physical abuse dating back weeks before her death.

Villavende’s employer and his wife, allegedly the perpetrators in the Filipino maid’s killing, are now behind bars in Kuwait.

During the meeting between Mama-o and Al-Jarallah, “the Filipino official praised Kuwait for the legal procedures the country has taken to address the issue,” Kuwait’s official news agency KUNA reported.

Officials from both countries are scheduled to hold further meetings next month to resolve the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait rescued another Filipino maid, Delia Solomon, who accused her employers of mistreatment.

“While a distressed OFW’s plea was going viral (on) social media yesterday, our Kuwait PE (Philippine Embassy) worked quietly on extracting her,” Foreign Undersecretary Brigido Dulay tweeted on Sunday.

“We are happy to report that she is now sheltered in our embassy and we’re working on reuniting her with her loved ones next week.”

Prior to his talks with Al-Jarallah, Mama-o on Saturday met with more than 100 members of the Filipino community in Kuwait.

Issues discussed included the Philippine government’s contingency plan amid tensions in the Middle East, and the decision of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s governing board to impose a ban on the deployment of newly hired OFWs bound for Kuwait.

Mama-o, who was accompanied by other Philippine officials, said the Duterte administration will exert all efforts to safeguard the welfare of all Filipinos in the Middle East.

During the Filipino community meeting, Chargé d’Affaires Noordin Pendosina Lomondot assured Filipinos in Kuwait that the embassy is preparing for any scenario in case the situation in the region does not improve.

The official gave Filipino community leaders details of the embassy’s contingency plan, such as possible evacuation routes and the names of area coordinators.