- The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is an act made by the U.S. legislature which mandates the U.S. administration to impose sanctions on any country carrying out significant defence and energy trade with sanctioned entities in North Korea, Iran and Russia.
- Last year, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system under CAATSA.
- India and Russia signed a $5 billion contract for the procurement of S-400 air defense systems during the 2018 annual bilateral summit. India is set to get the consignment of the S-400 air defence system this year.
Why in News?
- Three U.S. Senators have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act FY2022 – an annual defence budget bill – to make it harder for the executive branch of the U.S. government to impose sanctions on members of the Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue (Quad) for buying Russian arms.
- The move comes as India is expected to take delivery of the S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Moscow, potentially attracting sanctions under CAATSA.
- The senators noted that a waiver for India is appropriate since India has been cutting its dependence on Russia for defence purchases and imposing sanctions at this time could derail deepening cooperation between US and India across all aspects of bilateral relationship – from vaccines to defence cooperation, from energy strategy to technology sharing.
- India expects it will be exempted from sanctions for several reasons. It began negotiating the purchase before CAATSA became law in 2017 and there was not a counter-offer from the United States at the time. The US subsequently offered Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-3) in 2019, by which time the S-400 deal had been finalised.
- The US sees India as a major market for the US defence industry. In the last one decade, it has grown from near zero to USD 15 billion worth of arms deals.
- Since 2008, the US has bagged more than $15 billion in arms deals including for the C-17 Globemaster and C-130J transport planes, P-8 (I) maritime reconnaissance aircraft, M777 light-weight howitzer, Harpoon missiles, and Apache and Chinook helicopters.
- In percentage terms, the US share of Indian arms imports total 23 per cent in terms of the number of contracts and 54 per cent by value.
- India was designated a “Major Defence Partner” of the U.S. in 2016 and it was granted Strategic Trade Authorization tier 1 status in 2018. These designations allowed India easier access to sensitive U.S. defence technology.
- Both countries are also coming together on Indo-Pacific strategy and the newly renewed Quad platform.
- With this context in mind, several U.S. lawmakers who favoured a close U.S.-India relationship, made a strong case for a CAATSA waiver for countries like India, which had historically bought Russian arms but were now buying more U.S. arms.
What is the S-400 air defence missile system?
- The S-400 Triumf, (NATO calls it SA-21 Growler), is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM) designed by Russia.
- It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
- The system can engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and ballistic and cruise missiles within the range of 400km, at an altitude of up to 30km.
- The system can track 100 airborne targets and engage six of them simultaneously.
- The S-400’s mission set and capabilities are roughly comparable to the famed US Patriot system.
- The S-400 can also be integrated into the existing and future air defence units of the Air Force, Army, and the Navy.
- India’s acquisition of S-400 is crucial to counter attacks in a two-front war, including even high-end F-35 US fighter aircraft.