The United States is finally working on adding more flexibility to its law that sanctions countries like India for buying Russian weapon systems, but it is evident that the States wants India to drop the $5.5 billion deal for five S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems with Moscow.

Recently the US had implemented sanctions on any country that acquires the S-400 systems, ruling out countries including India. However, Congressman Mac Thornberry said on Monday that there was “concern” in the US – both in the administration and in the Congress – that the deal would “complicate our ability to work on inter-operability”. Even the US administration had agreed that implementing sanctions on any country that acquires S-400 systems will complicate the US to have interoperability with other nations.

In fact, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CATSA), that was signed in August last year, the US currently does not have much flexibility. Under CATSA, the States has to punish any country or entity that engages in major deals with defence or intelligence sectors of three countries – Russia, North Korea and Iran. Taking account of India’s recent concluding deal with Russia worth Rs 40,000-crore to manufacture S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems for the Indian Air Force, it would mean that the US will implement sanctions on India.

For India, acquiring the US-built Predator S-400 drones in important to hold operations against terrorist launch-pads along the Line of Control with Pakistan; and hence it is working with Russia to evade CATSA. However, as Mac Thornberry said on Monday, the US “values India as a very important strategic partner”, and it isn’t just about India, there are many other countries too. This is why the US administration and the Congress believes that some additional flexibility in that law is needed to allow any concession if a country is willing to reduce its dependence on Russian equipment.